Of all the back of a fag packet wheezes that Lynton Crosby's war machine coughed up during the dog days of the general election campaign, the Tories' proposals to extend 'Right to Buy' to housing association tenants must rank as one of the most ill-considered. That is why I'm going to call on the Government to think again when we debate the Housing and Planning Bill in the House of Commons later today. Slapdash legislation; numbers that don't add up; a statist assault on independent housing trusts - from every angle this policy falls short. Add to that a disregard for some of the social impacts and it truly represents British politics at its short-term, headline-chasing worst.
What more do we know now the Queen has sat down that we didn't know last week? We know there will be a housing bill and that extending Right to Buy will be part of it, but that's about it. Quite how much of the detail has been worked out behind the scenes and how much is still up for grabs remains to be seen.
Probably the hardest hit by the failure to replace Right to Buy homes is the heart of the Northern Powerhouse itself, Greater Manchester, and the conurbation's experience should set off screaming alarm bells about what may happen under the new scheme. Some 863 social rented homes have been sold in Greater Manchester since 2012, when the promise of one-for-one replacements was first made. Yet of those only two have been replaced: two connected semis on a cul-de-sac in a Wigan suburb. To put it bluntly, the government has tried to squeeze too much out of too small an amount of money...
Concurrent policies to build 200,000 starter homes are to be applauded, but given the dismal record of housebuilding over the last decades, perhaps the applause should be put on hold until some front door keys have actually been handed over. Otherwise, how odd to focus energy on encouraging those with a subsidised roof over their heads also to own it, at a stroke removing availability to others in need.
The government needs to re-evaluate the Right to Buy scheme and establish a new way for citizens to live comfortably. If they focused on creating long-term options such as rent-only neighborhoods, or providing more funds to citizens with a low-income, the housing crisis could soon become a thing of the past.
Housing is already shaping up to be one of the key issues in the manifestos and in the election campaign. That's great. But the headline issue in the Conservative Party manifesto is a promise to extend the Right to Buy. This is comprehensively the wrong solution. In fact, as a measure to end the housing crisis, this is just about the worst idea yet.
If you are an avid reader of the Daily Telegraph or Times you will be aware that there is a new round of speculation that some of our politicians are interested in extending the Right to Buy to housing associations... If there is a serious proposal to legislate again, it will fail again. And here's why.
It's time we admit that people who are renting in the UK, through choice or necessity, are being treated as second class citizens and widespread action is needed. At present, rarely a day passes without a story in the news about the non-existent rights of renters and the plethora of ways private landlords and letting agents have of exploiting this.