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The number of homes being built for low-earners is now at the lowest level since records began

For those on a low-income, getting on the housing ladder is now an almost impossible dream, and even simply finding a place to rent at a reasonable price has become ridiculously hard. Yet, whilst many politicians attempt to scapegoat immigrants or overpopulation for the crisis, new figures have been released that prove beyond question that the situation has been entirely manufactured by the Conservative government’s disastrous, and intentionally divisive housing policies.

Since the Tories came to power in 2010, the number of central government-funded social rent homes being built has fallen by 90%. That’s according to Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, John Healey.

Healey went on to say:

“A year since Theresa May admitted that the Conservatives haven’t given enough attention to social housing, it’s clear ministers are still not building the homes the country needs.”

And since 2010, the number of homes being built for social rent has fallen off a veritable cliff edge – and this unprecedented statistics make for extraordinarily stark visuals:

A report released by Homes England today has shone light on the state of house building for those on the lowest end of the financial ladder.

Inside Housing reports that only44% of homes delivered through central government funding programmes in England were for affordable or social rent last year, the lowest figure since current records began.”

The figures published by Homes England ere stark, and show that there had been just 42,652 housing starts on site and 33,741 housing completions funded by central government in 2017/2018. 

Of the 42,652 housing starts, 65% were for affordable homes, which represents a 4% decrease from the previous year. 17,159 of those were for Affordable Rent, which represents a decrease of 22% since 2016/2017.

In 2009/2010, 28,859 homes were built through central government funding. This number dropped to 2,580 by 2013/2014 and down to 630 by 2015/2016.

Houses built for market rent through central government funding, meanwhile, began at 9,275 in 2009/2010, rising to 11,790 by 2015/2016 and further still to 14,747 by 2017/2018.

The downward trend in dwindling numbers of social houses being built through central government funding runs parallel to the Tories’ emphasis on redirecting funding to higher rent housing – so-called ‘affordable’. 

Affordable housing, though, is widely acknowledged as a misnomer. When it comes to rent, as noted above, it is housing rented at 20% below private market rates. In relation to purchases, though, it constitutes houses on which mortgage payments would cost more than rent in council housing but below market levels.  

Affordable housing completions have, according to Homes England, risen over recent years. From 17,390 in 2015/2016 to 22,885 in 2016/2017 and 25,841 in 2017/2018. 

However, with mortgage repayments and rents anchored to private market rates, affordable housing does not offer many much reprieve. A home being classified as ‘affordable’ simply by dint of being sold or rented for a proportion of private market rates is not a sustainable policy when private market rates – both for purchases and rents – explode at the same time as earnings stagnate.

Indeed, criticisms of one of the Tories’ flagship housing policies, Help to Buy, include the fact that it is ctually driving up house prices. Such is evidenced by the fact that the average earnings of a Help to Buy recipient have risen 35% since 2013, while earnings themselves have risen 6% in the same time.

Houses built through Help to Buy are not included in the Homes England statistics, though if they were, one imagines a new category would need to be added for those that need to be rebuilt, since 98% of them are not up to standard.

It is clear that the Tories are engaging in a false economy on housing. Indeed, Evolve reported recently that there are not nearly enough social homes being built to replace the tens of thousands being sold off under the Tories’ other flagship housing policy, Right to Buy.

This is at the same time as Housing Associations are making tens of millions of pounds selling off their social housing stock. Such sales have tripled since 2001 with 150,000 social homes having been sold off since 2012.

The Tory experiment is over. The hand of the State cannot be removed from house building. It is a function of a sophisticated, centralised, modern State, much the same as the provision of policing, health care and education is. Once the state removes itself, the private sector cannot self-regulate and it does not satisfy the needs of the people.

We know this to be true. One need merely glance at homelessness having risen by a staggering 169% since 2010. Or, perhaps, the fact that a nation supposedly built with home ownership as a cornerstone of its democracy has churned out ‘generation rent’. On average, tenants spend over half their wages on rent. In London, that figure rises to 89% of tenants’ wages. 

From Thatcher to May – the politics and economics of neoliberalism have given us a state of housing not unlike that at the turn of the century. The only real difference is this time we have touch-screen phones.

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