• Development Intelligence

The real Tory crisis – build homes or die

The Tory Party is in existential crisis, capitalism is apparently now ‘uncool’ and Corbyn’s Islington-style socialism is on the march.  What is going on?

The concept of a ‘property owning democracy’ has always been one of the key foundations of Tory Party thinking and has helped them attract their voters in election after election.  But the concept is fundamentally broken when home ownership is in such terminal decline.  Generation Rent is used to renting everything: their flat, their car through Zipcar or Uber, their Boris bike, their music through Spotify, their TV through Netflix.  Why should the young, bearded, urban hipster, saddled with £50k of university debt and with no hope of getting on the housing ladder before their late forties, feel part of the ‘property owning democracy’ and vote Tory?  It’s no wonder they lapped up Jezza’s ‘have some free stuff and the rich will pay’ offer in the June General Election.

The fringe at the Tory Party conference had 30 different events all about housing.  But the ‘big’ announcement, in terms of overall Government spending, was relatively small beer: £10 billion more for Help to Buy and £2 billion more for social housing.  The housing crisis is way bigger than that.

The Tories only hope is to ‘Build Baby Build’, to rework the US Republican shale gas campaign slogan from the 2008 Presidential Election.  The Tories will be doomed for a generation or more unless they address the housing shortage which is actually at the very heart of the under 50s alleged disaffection with capitalism and the free market.

We need a 1950s SuperMac house building programme on a war footing instead of more whining at the private sector to do more and throwing some small change around. The DI team have been banging on about this for years, see here, here, here, here and here.  The Government needs to:

  • Announce a plan/timeline for the withdrawal of Help to Buy – the private sector needs to begin to plan for an unsubsidised future.  We can’t keep funding private sector demand for ever and we need to address public sector supply even more urgently.

  • Create some new financial models for delivering public sector housing – throw in public sector land and work with the private sector to finance and build it through some resi for sale, PRS and long term funding.

  • Concentrate on delivering not just homes for rent but shared equity housing as well – to capture those who can afford to pay a mortgage but just don’t have the ‘bank of mum and dad’ deposit.

  • Reinvent Right to Buy so that people rent now in the knowledge they will be able to buy at a discount soon – the aim should be to automatically lifecycle people through social housing into home ownership not just to beach them in a council house for the rest of their lives.

This is the Tories’ only hope to win back the under 50s vote.  And they need to turn this around fast.