Speech marks

It would be easy to criticise the ideas in David Cameron’s speech on welfare reform as half-baked and impractical. They are both but that is not the main point.

One paragraph is missing from the transcript of the speech he gave in Kent today. This is a reference by Cameron to the way that the last Labour government allegedly ran up ‘a huge income transfer industry that they ran from the Treasury pushing tax credits and benefits around in a bid to try hit the poverty targets they’d set up’. This is marked as ‘political content excised’.

It’s a label that might as well apply to the whole speech, given that it’s a vision of what the welfare system would look like under a Conservative, Liberal Democrat-free government. You don’t have to look very far today to find Lib Dem bloggers calling on Nick Clegg to condemn Cameron’s ideas in the strongest language imaginable’ and Lib Dem think-tanks calling them ‘daft’ and ‘unworkable’.

Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge, my blog for Inside Housing.


Big ideas

A radical new report out today challenges almost 40 years of orthodoxy about how we subsidise housing – and much more besides.

The think-tank Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says it’s time to reverse the shift from bricks and mortar to personal subsidies that began in the 1970s and get back to building homes rather than subsidising rents.

It’s far from the only big idea in the report, which is part of the IPPR’s fundamental review of housing policy, but it is the most eye-catching. In the current spending review period we are spending £94 billon on housing benefit but only £4.5 billion on building new affordable homes. Is there a better way?

Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge, my blog for Inside Housing


Vanishing act

One of the stats most often quoted by Grant Shapps is that the social rented housing stock shrank by 421,000 homes under Labour. The real question is how much it will shrink under him.

The housing minister quoted the figure again this week when he was interviewed on the Today programme on Wednesday about the affordable housing figures (for more on them see my blog for Inside Housing here). His use of statistics is much discussed but on this particular one he’s right: social housing disappeared under Labour as right to buy and demolitions outnumbered construction of new homes. What he did not mention was that roughly twice as many homes disappeared under the Conservatives between 1979 and 1997.

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Mind the gap

Everywhere I’ve been in Manchester this week it’s hard to avoid falling into the gap between good intentions and cold reality.

It’s there in the underlying theme of the CIH conference (a decade of sector-led solutions) and attempts to find ways forward under continuing austerity as outside the conference chamber the underlying problems just keep getting worse.

Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge, my blog for Inside Housing.


Stats war

Affordable rent may have kicked in at last but affordable housing starts are still down 57 per cent on a year ago. Get set for another row about stats.

It is of course pure coincidence but 24 hours after Jack Dromey and Labour went to the blankets in the housing stats war with Grant Shapps (well, ok, referred him to the UK Statistics Authority) perhaps the most politically sensitive of all figures were published this morning.

Read the rest of this post at Inside Edge, my blog for Inside Housing.


The trouble with troubled families

Behind the launch of the troubled families programme by Eric Pickles lies a sorry story of the systematic abuse and distortion of research evidence with an added bit of John Wayne.

Billed as part of ‘counter-attack Sunday’ by the Conservative Home website, the launch was trailed by Pickles in an interview in the Independent. The main point will be to end the ‘it’s not my fault culture’ that has allegedly enabled 120,000 troubled families to avoid taking responsibility for their own lives. Pickles said he would be ‘a little less understanding’ to families ‘fluent in social work’ who are responsible for ‘chaos that costs the country £9 billion every year’.

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The Cameron connection

After The Secret History of Our Streets, I wonder if David Cameron will be quite so keen to namecheck Sir Patrick Abercrombie in future.

As I blogged for Inside Housing earlier today, last night’s brilliant first episode of the series exposed the role of post-war planners in the demolition of the homes around Deptford High Street. Most prominent of all was Abercrombie, the monocle-wearing creator of the County of London Plan who said in a wartime film about the ‘dirty, dismal houses’ of the south London area: ‘You see the trouble is that London grew up without any plan or order. That’s why there are all these bad things and ugly things that we hope to do away with if this plan of ours is carried out.’

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Secret history

Have we really learned our lessons from our post-war housing mistakes or are we still making some of the same ones?

That was the question running through my mind after watching the brilliant and sometimes heart-rending first episode of The Secret History of Our Streets last night. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, you really should make time to catch it on iPlayer if you missed it.

Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge, my blog for Inside Housing


Jubilee generations

As the Queen prepares to celebrate 60 years on the throne, here are my six housing generations and their very different experiences of six decades of housing market booms and busts.

I wasn’t going to write a Diamond Jubilee blog as the ground has already been so well covered by Steve Hilditch and Colin Wiles and in the papers but then I read this Telegraph blog by Ian Cowie and I couldn’t resist.

The piece is not quite as terrible as the ‘sixty happy and glorious years of soaring house prices’ headline might suggest but it got me thinking. Much of the story of those 60 years really is about the expansion of home ownership and the 80-fold increase in house prices but it looks very different according to when you were able to buy:

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