BY the time the extra £2bn that Theresa May has set aside for social housing actually becomes available in 2022 and beyond, Brexit and the economy permitting, it’s almost certain that there will be a new occupant of 10 Downing Street.
Yet, while this money is in addition to the £9bn currently being made available for various schemes and won’t begin to make up the national shortfall in low-cost housing, the Prime Minister is, at the very least, trying to build some longer-term policy foundations.
And while local authorities and housing associations will, rightly, point to the scale of the challenge after they were forbidden from using the proceeds of ‘right-to-buy’ sales, Margaret Thatcher’s flagship policy, to replace homes that were sold, Mrs May says housing is – for now – her number one domestic priority.
However the Government’s job is to make sure this money is spent on bricks and mortar – Housing Secretary James Brokenshire appeared to be over-complicating matters in various interviews – and that major developers do, in fact, construct those low-cost homes which are a condition of planning consent.
That said, Mrs May was correct when she pointed out that social housing tenants are “not second-rate citizens” and that new rental homes should be built to the same standard as privately-owned properties. Her challenge now is making the whole housing sector aware of the Government’s ambition – and then ensuring that the public and private sector do come together to look for solutions rather than problems.