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Saturday, June 03, 2017

Another day another Tory u-turn

Considering that the Tories called this election one would have thought they would be better prepared. Instead their whole campaign has been one disaster after another.

If it is not bad enough that the Prime Minister will not debate with other leaders and is too frit to even appear on Woman's Hour, their manifesto has been almost as big a disaster area as Labour's. In fact it is worse as it seems we should be entitled to expect competence from the Government of the day. Instead we have had the dementia tax and its associated U-turn, no costings and now another U-turn on affordable housing.

As the Independent reports, the Tory pledge to build “a new generation” of social housing has all but been abandoned. Theresa May personally promised her policy would deliver “a constant supply of new homes for social rent”, but her housing minister has now admitted planned homes would in fact be of significantly less affordable type:

In mid-May the Conservatives announced they would build “a new generation of homes for social rent”, in a policy seen as critical to winning over the kind of working-class voters Ms May needs to steal seats off Labour.

The Tory manifesto spelt out a plan for “new council housing deals”, which would help councils "build more social housing”. And, in an intervention that spoke to the policy’s importance, Theresa May personally pledged it would create “a constant supply of new homes for social rent”.

But in an interview on Friday with trade magazine Inside Housing, minister Gavin Barwell admitted the party was planning to continue to build homes with higher rents and was not in fact reinstating traditional socially rented council housing.

Asked whether the homes planned by his party would be let at low-level council rents, the minister said: “No, I think the idea is that they are what you’d call affordable rents in housing terminology, but they are social housing.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government defines social rented housing as having lower rents “determined through the national rent regime” – a specific formula set by the Government.

Affordable-rent housing, meanwhile, is separately defined, and simply requires homes to be “of no more than 80 per cent of the local market rent” – meaning rents could be considerably higher. In practice, social rent tends to come in at around 40 per cent of market rent, meaning that in some areas the difference in rent could be twice as much.

As ever I am reluctant to say I told you so, but in fact that is the case. On the 15th May, I wrote: 'Expertise and support is needed to help local authorities build new homes but without the finance which is being promised by both the Liberal Democrats and Labour, this Tory plan is doomed to be nothing more than a damp squib.'

Why has it taken so long for this unfunded Tory promise to catch up with them?
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