Housing is now financialised, like the rest of market capitalism

Green plastic monopoly houses, by 123rf.comThe enforced sell-off of housing association homes, at the same enormous discounts as under Right to Buy (£70,000+ for a flat and up to £102,000 for a house) is driven by the two Tory goals, not only to act as bribes for voters at election time, but also to bring homes as an asset into play in the private market.

Implicit in that goal are two other Tory presumptions. One is that rents should also be determined by the private market, and the euphemism of ‘affordable rents’ is simply a con to distract from the truth that such rents are a teeny-weeny bit below market rates on their way to reaching full market levels. The other is that while tenancies are in principle inferior to ownership, Council tenancies which charge a ‘social’ rent of around half of market rates are anathema. Council tenants, like scroungers in the Tory panoply of poisonous misrepresentation, are pampered, not taking responsibility for their housing, and needing to learn the benefits of individualism. Continue reading

Tories make tenants and homeless pay for social housing give away as election bribe

Money-on-a-plateThe desperate search for shrinking votes has pushed Iain Duncan Smith into yet another spectacular own goal. His latest pet idea is to extend the Right to Buy to Britain’s 2.5m housing association tenants. However, whilst social homes are owned by Councils, this latest Tory brainwave means selling off housing association assets which are private property because housing associations are independent charities so that their £65bn in borrowing is securely off the public accounts. But as Osborne must know only too well, compelling housing associations to sell to tenants using the same Right to Buy discounts enjoyed by Council tenants (up to £102,000 in London and £77,000 elsewhere) would cost serious amounts of taxpayer money and bankrupt some housing associations. This is yet another unfunded Tory commitment. Continue reading

This government is more class-ridden than Thatcher’s

29804413_sYesterday’s report that the government has exempted developers who turn an empty building into private housing from having to build further affordable housing not only gives super-rich investors like the Abu Dhabi investment fund a free windfall of hundreds of millions of pounds, it also deprives some of the poorest families of the affordable housing they desperately need.

Under Thatcher social renting declined by 990,000, under Major by 226,000, and under Blair by 726,000 (according to Savills Residential Property Research). It is now at the lowest level ever relative to demand since there are 1.4 million households on council waiting lists plus a further 80,000 homeless in temporary accommodation. Continue reading

35,000 low-cost homes lost last year by government’s open market policies

A dream home becomes just a dreamThe government’s latest housing policy is to force social landlords who receive government funding to build new homes to convert a proportion of their existing social rented homes into the Tories’ new ‘affordable rent’ tenure. ‘Affordable rent’ in government-speak actually means the opposite. It means pricing rents at up to 80% of local average open market rents which puts them beyond the reach of most of the country’s poorest households. Indeed the UK Housing Review figures show that nearly three-quarters of tenants who have moved into so-called ‘affordable ‘rented homes have had to apply for housing benefit to pay for the cost.

This has had two perverse results. Landlords have agreed under government pressure to convert nearly 100,000 social homes to ‘affordable’ rent since the policy was introduced in 2011, meaning that more and more housing in the social rented sector has now become increasingly inaccessible to households in the lowest quartile. Second, the policy has had contradictory and adverse impacts on the public finances. DWP is trying to curb the social sector’s housing benefit costs, but at the same time Pickles’ DCLG is pushing up housing benefit costs through the use of affordable rent. Continue reading

Is the home ownership model outdated, and ready for the dustbin of history?

The Peckwater Estate, Kentish TownLet us set the scene. You’re a Labour government, it’s 2015, and you’re tasked with tackling economic instability, and health and social problems on a scale not seen in living memory. You need a grand idea, a pillar of policy that states your long term vision, that gives everything you do afterwards solid foundation, and solves a broad range of social problems economic problems.

That centre-piece must be housing. From everywhere from the 20-something in the street, to the floor of TUC conference or what the Guardian calls the “defining economic issue of our time”, a radical housing policy can be One Nation Labour’s solution to inequality, social inclusion and economic stagnation. Just as ‘Education Education Education’ was to New Labour. Continue reading