Posts Tagged 'social housing'

Election focus: Housing policy predictions & radical solutions

In the run up to the General Election we will be bringing you insightful pieces from our authors on policy-relevant subjects, including housing, health, welfare and, underpinning it all, increasing social inequality.

Let’s look beneath the distraction of Brexit and Labour’s disarray and examine the issues we really need to be thinking about as we put our cross in the box on the 8th June.

DB pic

Duncan Bowie

In this piece, Duncan Bowie, author of Radical solutions to the housing supply crisis looks at what housing policies may be included in the party manifestos and explains the radical solutions we need.

“The focus on Brexit and the negotiations on withdrawal from the European Union has meant that housing has not, at least as yet, become the key issue in the election campaign that perhaps would have been expected had the referendum not taken place.

Debates so far have focused far too much on the contrast between Theresa May’s advocacy of ‘strong and stable leadership’ and whether or not the Labour Party leader is fit to be Prime Minister or the divided Labour Party is ‘fit to govern’. There has been little focus on policy issues, though (at the time of writing), the main party manifestos have not been published.

The political parties, including the Conservatives, were all caught on the hop by the election announcement and consequently the drafting of the various electoral offers have been somewhat of a rushed process. Even a matter of weeks before the election was called, Labour housing spokespersons were reluctant to make any policy statements policy on the basis that it would be premature to give commitments before 2020, even though housing was bound to be a key issue in the local and city region Mayor elections, which were scheduled. Labour was even hesitant to commit to repealing the 2016 Housing and Planning Act, despite the fact they had opposed it in parliament.

Continue reading ‘Election focus: Housing policy predictions & radical solutions’

Why the Right to Buy policy was so successful

How do you judge whether a policy has worked or not? Obviously, this is an important question, but the answer is by no mean clear cut. The reason I say this is because in my new book, Housing Policy Transformed: the Right to Buy and the Desire to Own, I argue that the most successful piece of public policy since the Second World War is the Right to Buy (RTB), which allowed social tenants to buy their dwelling at a considerable discount. Yet the RTB must be one of the most hated policies ever enacted. It is accused of causing a massive increase in homelessness, the residualisation of social housing and helped to create the apparently fatal fetishisation of owner occupation that led to the crash in the housing market in 2007.

So how can we claim that the RTB was so successful? The complaints about the RTB are all concerned with the effects of the policy on other issues rather than the policy itself. But if you look at the explicit aims of policy as set out in 1978 it is clear that the RTB achieved exactly what it was set up do. The Conservatives had two purposes: first, to extend owner occupation more widely amongst working class households, and second, to diminish the influence of local authorities over rented housing.

So when we consider that 2.5 million households bought their dwelling and local authorities now own less than 2 million dwellings instead of the 6 million in 1979 we must conclude that the RTB worked spectacularly well. The policy achieved precisely what the government intended it to.

So why is this not recognised in the literature? The reason is that virtually all the discussion on the RTB is conducted on the basis of the integrity of social housing. Quite simply, most academics and commentators see that social housing is a more legitimate tenure than owner occupation. Social housing is taken as the normal tenure around which the others ought to be judged. Therefore, what happens to social housing is all that matters.

Yet clearly this view is absurd when we consider the manner in which governments have to operate within the real world, where a majority of households are owner occupiers and a significant part of the minority aspire to it. Political parties, if they wish to get elected, have to respond to the aspirations of their populations, and this means that owner occupier will always be seen as more important than social housing.

Peter King
Centre for Comparative Housing Policy, Department of Public Policy, De Montfort University
Housing policy transformed: The right to buy and the desire to own is now available with 25% discount.
Peter King was interviewed for the article ’30 years on, the right to buy revolution that still divides Britain’s housing estates’ in The Observer, click here to read more.


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