Social housing, right to buy and the Conservative Party

This week’s Conservative Party conference in Manchester will likely be a lively affair after the disappointing election earlier this year. One issue which has been prominent on the political scene for some time now is that of social housing. The indications are that Theresa May, leader of the Conservative Party, will this week announce a new move to provide more social housing right across the UK. This is an issue that many voters were concerned about at the last election with experts suggesting one of the reasons why the Labour Party vote increased was because of promises on social housing. So, what can we expect from the Conservative Party?

Private rental arrangements

Local authorities have been concerned for some time that they were struggling to raise significant borrowings to build social housing. There have also been issues with finding appropriate land on which to build which has led to a significant shortfall in social housing right across the country. This in turn has pushed many people towards private rental arrangements with the housing charity Shelter today confirming that those in private rental accommodation are spending 41% of their monthly income on accommodation. When you bear in mind that 4.5 million households in the UK are renting privately this is a significant and growing market.

The shift of focus towards social housing comes at a time when the UK government has been increasing taxes for those operating in the buy to let sector. So, should we expect a “nicer” Conservative Party as opposed to the “nasty party” label of years gone by?

Doing it the Conservative way

While details of the speech on social housing are sparse at the moment, if we look back to the Conservative manifesto published in June there was mention of additional funding for social housing projects. The idea is that governments will provide low-cost capital for local authorities to build fixed term social housing. On the surface this may seem a little “socialist” for the Conservative Party but there is a twist!

Under the terms of this low-cost capital the new social housing would be sold privately after somewhere between 10 years and 15 years with tenants automatically having the right to buy. This would raise funds for the local authority/government to repay capital borrowed and it would also reinvigorate the UK homeowner market. However, is this not just a sticking plaster over a gaping wound which is the social housing problem the UK has lived with for many years?

Targeting voters under 40 years of age

In what is an unfortunate political twist to the expected Conservative Party announcement on social housing it looks as though this is being targeted at those under 40 years of age. This is an area of the population into which Jeremy Corbyn was able to tap into earlier this year, when he increased the Labour Party vote. On one hand the Conservative Party is looking to help local councils under the guise of increasing the amount of social housing in the UK but this has a capitalist and political twist.

Will it be enough to stem the tide of voters switching to Labour? How will the Labour Party respond? Where will the money come from to fund new housing programs?

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