This is an intial response to May’s announcement on housing, as we await more detail.

On the morning of Teresa May’s speech government Minister Damian Green announced that there would be a “rebirth of council housing”. Yet when she spluttered her way through the sppech it was clear that the child was sadly dead on delivery.

The money available for “affordable housing” was only £2 billion, compared to £10 billion for Help To Buy. According to a Tory Party press release the £2 billion “could” be used to produce 25,000 homes over 5 years. Even assuming these were all council homes 5,000 is a puny amount which would make little difference to the housing crisis. It would not replace those homes lost to RTB. Sales are running at more than 12,000 a year in England. Between 2010-2017 57,677 were sold off. In addition, from 2010-2016 there were 20,300 council homes demolished and only just over 10,000 built. Since 2010 there has been a decline in the number of council homes by 174,000.

As regards rent levels the government is not even prepared to allow councils to build homes for ‘social rent’. This will only be allowed in areas of ‘greatest need’ whatever that means. The Department of Communities and Local Government, which always choses its words very carefully, refers to “rents affordable to local people”.

Even if these 25,000 are built they won’t all be council homes because as May made clear councils and housing associations will have to bid for grant.

This new housing policy is a complete sham which will do nothing to address the severe housing crisis. Only a large scale council house building programme can address this crisis. This could be started if the extra £12 billion available was provided for councils to build social rent homes. Yet this government, despite lip-service to “a new generation of council housing” is not prepared to provide grant to councils so that they can begin to build on a large scale.

Martin Wicks

Secretary, Swindon Tenants Campaign Group

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