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Baker Homes Blog

Election 2015: Tories right to buy bad news for sustainable homes crisis

Posted by Andrew Eagles on 29-Apr-2015 07:30:00

In the same week that the party manifestos confirmed familiar-sounding house-building targets, the nation’s third biggest house-builder, Persimmon, announced sales of more than £2 billion and an average sale price of £207,900. Suffice to say if build rates more than doubled, as they would have to under, for example the Lib Dems, it would make a serious dent on both. They had better hope that the parties’ record on meeting their targets does not improve.The 'real' economy

In these good times, Persimmon are City darlings. But if big returns are good for UK plc, the same cannot be said for what some have plaintively called the 'real’ economy. The strain on supply in London means near half a monthly income is diverted to rent and a lounge is a luxury. Elsewhere the degree is less but the fundamentals are the same.

It’s a not a good use of time to lament the unfairness of the property market. But it does seem cruel for a government to deliberately add to this misery with another arbitrary transfer of wealth, which is what the right to buy for housing association tenants is. There has been an outpouring of rage from many in the housing sector at the revival of this totem: cue predictable acid ripostes from quarters merely (as they see it) defending working class aspiration.

It is ironic, therefore, that all this heat could well be being expended over not very much at all. Even with a discount, in many areas there will precious few in a position to exercise their new right. An unaffordable £400,000 home with a £100,000 discount applied is no less unaffordable to the average social housing tenant.

We need to be building 300,000 homes a year just to stay still, yet right to buy will not lay the foundations for one more house. And it will probably be much worse than that. Since the re-booted right to buy was introduced in 2024, 26,000 homes have been sold under right to buy for only 2,724 replacements – less than one in nine.

If the Conservatives get the chance to put this policy into practice, we can be sure that the mudslinging will continue unabated. Ministers will spend their time in television and radio studios, preparing 'lines to take’ and gesticulating at the despatch box. In short, there will be lots of politics and not much policy. And this is the real problem: it will be a grievous distraction.

Housing: a crisis of quality

Right to buy detracts from a job which dwarfs almost all others; the housing crisis is one of numbers but also one of quality. Temperate Britain has some of the most expensive to run homes in Europe. Chilly Finland has some of the cheapest. Our homes are not insulated properly, they are wasteful and they are not sustainable. We need to put shovels in the ground for new homes, and scaffolding up for existing ones. Housing associations have a big part to play, and uncertainty over the assets which they depend on to invest will muddy the waters further. 

This article first appeared in Greenwise Business on 18th April 2015

Baker Homes is holding two webinars focusing on understanding and reducing fuel poverty. Find out how to keep your staff up to date and how to implement our elearning courses. Join us for our free webinars on the Thursday 7th May and Thursday 14th May. Register here

SHIFT conference, health and housing, housing associations, over heating, condensation

Topics: Insulation, Social Housing

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