BoJo isn’t a ‘usual suspect’ when calling for a change to government housing policy

If I was to call on the government to allow councils to use the funds that it has allocated for Starter Homes to be used instead for submarket rented housing, you might respond “What’s new?”. You might accuse me of being ‘a usual suspect’ in criticising government policy on housing.

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

But the call has come from a Conservative, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Both the two main Mayoral candidates, Labour’s Sadiq Khan and the Conservative, Zac Goldsmith, are making commitments to build low-cost rented housing if they win in May.

I hope that in the light of the recent turmoil going at the heart of government, there will be some cool heads who will look at housing policy and realise that without a massive increase in submarket rented housing, preferably at social housing rent levels, the housing crisis will continue to get worse.

The National Audit Office has said that there needs to be a fivefold increase in house building in order to meet the governments one for one replacement pledge for homes sold through the Right to Buy.

In a report published a couple of weeks ago, it said: “To meet the target of replacing the roughly 8,512 home sold in 2014/15 by the end of 2017/18 … would require quarterly housing starts to reach around 2,130, a fivefold increase.”

The Chartered Institute of Housing reported last week that more than 350,000 social rented homes will have been lost, as a result of government policies, by 2020.

These figures are based on calculations of converting properties let at social rents (traditional rents charge in social housing) being converted to affordable rents (80% of market rents now being charged by many housing associations) and Right to Buy sales.

Now is the time for cool heads in government. We need to see an end to the very policies that are exacerbating the crisis in the shortage of low-cost housing.

In the Chancellor’s own words, we need policies that “invests in the next generation”.

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