One manifesto promise conspicuously absent from yesterday’s Queen’s Speech was the Conservatives’ pledge to build 200,000 houses a year. Nonetheless, plans to resurrect Right to Buy made the final cut.
Here’s a great letter to the editor from this week’s Romsey Advertiser on the subject. The Advertiser is a local paper (readership of around 17,000) that doesn’t publish its letters online, but I thought it’d be a shame for this one not to live on beyond hard copy.
SIR: Your headline story (May 8) about private landlords being in receipt of housing benefit funds should surprise no one.
The Thatcher government started the sale of council houses to sitting tenants at a discount. These houses were of course owned by us, the community, so our assets were disposed of under the market rate.
After the debts on the houses were paid off, were the surplus monies invested in new houses? No they were not.
Houses changed hands and in some cases ex-council houses returned to the rental market but of course they were in the hands of private landlords. Private landlords found themselves in the market where demand far exceeded the supply. The result of this? Huge increases in the amount of rent that may be levied.
Hard working people, so beloved by politicians, are unable to pay these rentals, so we solve the problem by introducing housing benefit. What a mad, bad world we live in. A community owns a house, the house is sold at below the market price, at some point a buy to let landlord gets the house, the rent that may be charged is more than folk can afford, so we, the community, end up paying through our taxes to subsidise someone to live in a house which sold at below the market price.
Do I understand that someone is proposing to repeat this foolishness by forcing the sale of housing association stock? We are one of the richest countries in the world and it is all a disgrace on all of us that we have failed to provide appropriate housing for all. In the 1950s Harold MacMillan promised to build 300,000 houses a year. He did it. Why can’t we?