At the Conservative Party Conference today (4th October 2017), Theresa May said whether someone hopes to buy their own home or has been waiting for a council home “help is on the way”.
She said that the government will invest an additional £2bn in affordable housing, taking the government’s affordable housing budget to £9 bn.
She said that the government “will encourage councils as well as housing associations” and she promised to provide certainty over future rent levels.
We’ve been waiting a long time for that certainty. What a shame Sajid Javid didn’t provide it two weeks ago at the NHF conference and what a shame that Mrs May didn’t give it today.
She said: “In those parts of the country where need is greatest we will allow social rented housing to be built, at well below market levels, getting the government back into the business of building houses.”
David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, described it as a “watershed moment for the nation”.
I hope so. When Mrs May previously spoke about sub market rents she meant rents at 80% of the market.
In Brighton and Hove that equates to rents of c£750 per month for a on bed flat, unaffordable for those on benefits who can receive £612 per month, and then only if they are over 35 years of age.
The ongoing freeze of Local Housing Allowance – the amount people can get towards their housing costs – means that rents become more unaffordable with every passing month, including so-called affordable rents.
Mrs May promised homes with social rents. I hope she has been properly briefed and that we will in fact get such homes.
£9 billion is a lot, but much of it goes towards Help to Buy which doesn’t stimulate supply but rather fuels housing price inflation.
Those benefiting from Help to Buy are already the better off, not those in the most acute need.
We need social rents, within Local Housing Allowance and even below that so people on low incomes do not have to rely on housing benefit. We need a massive programme of council house building, equivalent to what Harold MacMillan achieved when he was Prime Minister, and we need clear action on homelessness and rough sleeping. She was silent on this.
For today I will give Mrs May the benefit of the doubt. The devil is in the detail. I hope this is truly a watershed moment. The next few days will tell us whether it is, and I reserve judgment until we have seen the detail.