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Theresa May’s flagship house-building policy has elicited both ridicule and fury today after it emerged that the Tories’ promised ‘new generation’ of council houses would deliver just 5,000 extra affordable homes a year – equivalent to just 8 extra houses for every UK constituency.
The policy, announced by Theresa May during her ill-fated Conference speech yesterday, was billed as one to challenge Jeremy Corbyn – but many on social media have criticised it as doing far too little, far too late.
Theresa May's council house building plan works out at 8 council houses for each local authority. 250,000 people in Britain are homeless.
— Rachael Swindon (@Rachael_Swindon) October 5, 2017
The Labour Party have also severely criticised the Tories’ ‘damp squib’ pledge, with their manifesto going far further than the Tories.
Labour added that:
The Tories new proposal also means they will be investing less than half of what Labour did in their last year in government in affordable housing
Jeremy Corbyn’s party promised to build at least “100,000 council and housing association homes a year for genuinely affordable rent or sale.”
By contrast, the Tories built just 1,102 council houses last year, and government funding saw just 27,792 ‘affordable’ homes built during the 2016-17 financial year.
Alarmingly, the number of government funded social houses being built has dropped by an astonishing 97% since the Tories took office in 2010.
What the Tories’ severe lack of house-building has meant is that the prices of existing properties have skyrocketed due to hugely increased demand.
This lack of housing and increased demand has been great news for already-wealthy landlords and property tycoons who have seen their average rents soar to exorbitant levels since the Tories came to power.
However, for those of us struggling with stagnating wages and insecure work, the extortionate rents being charged have made it impossible for most young people to even think about saving enough to buy a house.
If you only read one thing today make it this pic.twitter.com/uoJHc6k2SU
— Peter Stefanovic (@PeterStefanovi2) September 16, 2017
Theresa May proudly declared that it was her “mission to solve” Britain’s current housing crisis, and the Tories’ faithful media lackeys have done their best to talk up Theresa May’s lacklustre attempt at appeasing generation rent.
Whilst both Shelter and the National Housing Federation have welcomed the Tories’ shift in direction over house-building, both charities admit that the money by itself isn’t enough, and that due to the chronic nature of Britain’s housing shortage, long term investment and a significant increase in houses being built is required to actually solve the problem.
Shelter said that:
All new money is welcome, but with over 1.2 million households on waiting lists this is only a fraction of the long-term investment required.
To add further gloom for potential first time buyers – and despite previous optimistic suggestions – the Tories’ pledge does not include a lift on the ‘strongly-resented’ cap on councils borrowing money for house building.
Even Lord Porter – the Conservative chairman of the Local Government Association – said that:
The only way councils will be able to significantly deliver the new homes we need is if they are given genuine powers to invest in housing.
And he is spot on.
If Councils were given more freedom to build extra housing – especially new council houses – it would be a long term investment that paid dividends when rent money started going back into council coffers rather than the pockets of private landlords.
The Tories’ ‘big house-building pledge’ is nothing more than an outright sham. It is simply designed to try appease youngsters into believing the government are actually addressing the problem.
However, without significant extra investment to meet demand, and without giving councils the freedom to borrow money to build proper social housing that actually return profits into local government budgets, the Tories’ promise won’t even be a sticking plaster to Britain’s chronic housing crisis.
In announcing this shift in stance, Theresa May’s government have acknowledged that our generation’s anger at the current housing crisis is justified – but rather than addressing the problem head on like Labour have promised to – the Conservatives seem content with merely papering over the cracks.
Parallels can be drawn with the Tories shift on tuition fees – acknowledging that *something* had to be done when they announced a freeze in fee rises – but, much like their flagship house-building announcement, the shift is simply designed to appease youngsters without truly addressing the problem.
The Tories truly think that token gestures will suffice. But what Theresa May’s government fail to understand is that our generation won’t be fooled this easily.
And if they don’t make significant shifts towards truly addressing the problems they have created, they will surely find this out to their detriment, and the Labour Party’s gain, at the next General Election.
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