Boris Johnson's Plan To Let Benefit Claimants Buy Homes Already Derided

"It’s almost as if he doesn’t do much benefits casework."
Boris Johnson is shown how to fit roofing tiles during a visit to the West Carclaze Garden Village housing development in Cornwall.
Boris Johnson is shown how to fit roofing tiles during a visit to the West Carclaze Garden Village housing development in Cornwall.
Leon Neal via Getty Images

Boris Johnson is to announce plans to allow low-income families to use housing benefits to secure and pay for mortgages – but critics have already seized on the flaws in the plan.

In a revamped version of the flagship Conservative “right to buy” policy, The Times and The Sun reported that Johnson will argue that around £30 billion in housing benefit that currently goes towards rent could be better used to help housing association tenants buy their home.

But the newspaper said the vision to give millions the ability to buy their social properties at discounts of up to 70% is likely to be limited to a series of pilots, without additional government funding – suggesting it may never be rolled-out nationally.

The measure will be the centrepiece of the prime minister’s housing speech on Thursday to reassert his authority amid a Tory revolt.

“Right to buy” first entered the political lexicon when former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher let council tenants buy their own homes in 1980. Social housing is rarely overseen by councils today after most of the stock was hived off to housing associations or arms length bodies.

Proposals for renters to be able to buy their social homes at a discount are not new, and appeared in David Cameron’s 2015 Conservative manifesto.

After that pledge failed to materialise, Johnson committed to consider new pilots for the scheme ahead of the 2019 general election.

Labour shadow minister Jess Phillips was among those questioning how the housing benefits policy will work because individuals with more than £16,000 in savings and investments do not qualify for Universal Credit.

“It’s almost as if Boris Johnson doesn’t do much benefits casework,” the MP quipped.

It’s the latest policy the government has proposed where questions were asked over whether they ever come to fruition.

Also on Wednesday night, The Daily Mail’s front page suggested the first flight carrying migrants to Rwanda from the UK will be held up by an injunction – with some commentators arguing the face-off is exactly what ministers want.

Labour former shadow chancellor John McDonnell blamed the housing crisis on the selling off of council houses without replacing stock under Thatcher’s original scheme.

He told ITV’s Peston: “The selling off of housing association properties is just a political stunt for Boris Johnson, used as cloud cover for the week he’s had.”

Johnson will also commit to detail “reforms to help people cut costs in every area of household expenditure” over the coming weeks as he seeks to ease the impact of soaring prices.

Encouraging a wave of modular or “flatpack” homes to be built is another new measure being actively considered, but it was unclear whether the prime minister will commit to the move in his speech.

The moves come after surviving Monday’s confidence vote, despite the revolt by 41% of his MPs.

“We have the tools we need to get on top of rising prices,” Johnson will say, according to Downing Street’s preview of his speech.

“The global headwinds are strong, but our engines are stronger.

“And, while it’s not going to be quick or easy, you can be confident that things will get better, that we will emerge from this a strong country with a healthy economy.”

Johnson is expected to add: “Over the next few weeks, the government will be setting out reforms to help people cut costs in every area of household expenditure, from food to energy to childcare to transport and housing.”

He will also promise “to cut the costs that government imposes on businesses and people up and down the country” despite his prior tax hikes.

On Wednesday, Johnson said the government will be “expanding home ownership for millions of people” as he vowed to continue in No 10 despite the turmoil.

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