Homes for votes

So does the ‘buccaneering’ Conservative plan to extend the right to buy to housing association tenants stack up?

I was on 5 Live earlier talking about the big idea in today’s Tory manifestoand as usual only got to say half of what I wanted to say. The package beforehand was interesting: tenants from a housing association estate in the Old Kent Road were enthusiastic; but people on an estate in Dartford where the homes were long ago sold off could see the consequences as housing benefit ends up going to private landlords.

I argued that it’s a great idea in theory: if you can help people buy their own home and have enough money to build replacements, why not do it? In practice though, we’ve never come close to achieving this. The government promised one for one replacement for council homes sold in 2012 but the rate so far is one new home started for every 11 sold.

Extending the right to buy to housing associations was meant to be part of the original right to buy in the 1980s but dropped because it was too expensive and because so many associations are charities who have to use their assets for charitable purposes. If Margaret Thatcher couldn’t make it work then, how will David Cameron make it work now? If it’s such a great idea in England, why is Scotland ending the right to buy in 2016 and Wales consulting on doing the same?

Read the rest of this entry »


Have the Tories lost the plot?

When exactly are the Conservatives playing at with their election campaign? A relentlessly disciplined and on message electoral machine has instead looked erratic and directionless. Personal attacks on Ed Miliband have transformed him from a weird nerd into a ruthless dude. Even the right-wing press that is meant to sing to the Tory tune sounds like it has forgotten the words.

I could be completely wrong about all of this of course. There are still 25 days to go till polling day: the UKIP vote could collapse in enough seats the see the Tories home: we could end up being brainwashed rather than bored by the endless repetition of ‘long-term economic plan’ and ‘hardworking families’; Lynton Crosby is a genius, the cross-over will come and the polls could be as wrong as they were in 1992.

For the moment though things seem to keep going wrong for the party that ruled Britain for most of the 20th century but hasn’t won a majority for 23 years. Just as at the last election, the Conservatives seem unable to win more than a third of the vote. For me, this is about more than just UKIP splitting the vote. A bit like with Labour in the 1980s, I’m not clear what the Tories stand for any more.

Read the rest of this entry »


Plan C

So the Conservatives will pledge a ‘housing revolution’ at the election. Sound familiar?

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph over the weekend, George Osborne outlined a Tory plan to help a million more people into home ownership in the next parliament thanks to schemes like Help to Buy, Right to Buy and the Starter Home scheme.

‘I would like to see us double the number of first time buyers, up to half a million. That is the kind of level we saw in the 1980s. There is no reason why our country can’t achieve that again. That’s a goal we set ourselves today.

‘I think we can deliver a revolution in home ownership and make this the home-owning democracy, the home-owning society that I think is one of the Conservatives’ core beliefs.’

The chancellor says that visiting building sites is ‘the best part of my job’, not to mention donning high-vis jackets and being pictured with happy first-time buyers. ‘It reminds me of why we are doing this. Ultimately this is about people’s aspirations, their futures and their dreams.’

Read the rest of this entry »


Right to buy: a clarification

Oops. The final Right to Buy stats before the election show that the reinvigorated policy is delivering less than half the new homes the government previously claimed: one for every 11 sold.

Up to now, the ratio was running at one start on site for every five homes sold compared to an apparent pledge of 1-for-1 replacement when discounts were increased in April 2012. The chances of achieving that always seemed somewhere between slim and zero given that the Treasury still takes a cut of the receipts and the fine print meant that the pledge only applied only to additional sales on top of those already expected, even though the replacements would not be like for like.

However, as Pete Apps reports, today’s figures for replacement starts on site have been revised downwards substantially. The apparent 4,795 starts between April 2012 and September 2013 turn out to be just 2,298. That compares with more than 26,000 homes sold off since April 2012.

The graph below shows the comparison quarter by quarter:

RTB

Read the rest of this entry »


Own goals

Could housing hold the key to the Conservatives’ chances of winning the general election?

I’d assumed till now that the fact David Cameron made housing (or rather home ownership) one of his six priorities for speeches signalled no more than a desire to put aspiration at the heart of the Tory campaign. Mixing a few dubious claims about Help to Buy with some boasts about the Starter Home Initiative might mean some extra votes but housing would remain a secondary issue behind the economy, the NHS and immigration.

But two tweets this week by influential Conservative Tim Montgomerie made me wonder about this. Montgomerie is a Times columnist but that understates his influence in the party as the co-founder of the Centre for Social Justice, creator of the Conservative Home website and speechwriter for two Tory leaders.

-> Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing


Hard sell

As sales pass 20,000, what’s been the impact of England’s ‘reinviograted’ right to buy so far?

Figures released by the DCLG last week show 20,027 sales since April 2012, when the maximum discount was increased to £75,000. This followed David Cameron’s Conservative Party conference speech in October 2011, when he said the proceeds would be reinvested in new affordable homes.

The government continues to introduce extra sales incentives. These include a new maximum discount for London of £100,000 from April 2013, £100 million to improve access to mortgage finance plus right to buy sales agents, annual inflation uprating of discounts and an increase in the maximum percentage discount on a house. Finally, the Deregulation Bill will reduce the qualifying period from five years as a tenant to three once it completes remaining stages in the Lords and gets Royal Assent.

That’s the context. But what are the numbers? And what about the wider impacts warned about by critics? Here’s an assessment so far:

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


Paying the bill

Blink and you may have missed it but significant housing legislation you may never have heard of passed its final stages in the Commons on Monday night.

Scant discussion in the housing press (including by me) of the Deregulation Bill is perhaps understandable when you consider that it is huge and it covers everything from the right to buy to outer space*. Several of the clauses involving housing were also not in the original Bill and have been added later.

However, here’s what will become law in England this summer as a result of Monday’s votes (there are other minor changes I don’t have room for):

  • The qualifying period for the right to buy will be reduced from five years to three
  • Local authorities will no longer be able to impose standards for new homes that go beyond the building regulations (mainly on energy efficiency)
  • Legislation banning short-term lets of homes in London will be repealed
  • The secretary of state will no longer have the power to require local authorities to produce housing strategies.

Read the rest of this entry »


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 223 other followers