Tory housing plan is not radical enough, say Labour, Lib Dems... and Grant Shapps

Written by David Singleton on 7 February 2017 in Diary

"I don't suppose this will make that much difference…"

The government’s new housing strategy for England has received a resounding vote of no confidence from opposition parties, housing campaigners - and a former Tory housing minister.

Business secretary Sajid Javid set out the details of the housing White Paper in a statement to MPs.

The new strategy includes giving councils powers to pressurise developers to start building on land they own.

Ministers have also pledged to make renting more ‘family-friendly’ with longer tenancies offered. And the government is introducing banning orders “to remove the worst landlords or agents from operating”.

Javid said: “The housing market in this country is broken and the solution means building many more houses in the places that people want to live.”

But he also admitted there was "no one single magic bullet”.

Speaking to the BBC’s Daily Politics show, former housing minister Grant Shapps appeared to agree with the last point at least.

He said: "Housing ministers over the years have come out with documents or bills, and the truth is none of them are going to make much difference - and I don't suppose this will make that much difference either.

"The reason is this - unless you build literally two, three, million more homes then you're not going to solve the problem."

Shapps also took some of the blame for the government's failure to solve the housing crisis.

“I do think we’ve been slipping the wrong way with this and it’s probably my fault,” he said.





Others were more scathing about the government’ plans.

Labour’s shadow housing minister John Healey said: “We hoped for better and we needed better. His disappointment will desperately disappoint millions of people struggling to cope with a housing crisis. It was feeble beyond belief.”

He added: "We were promised a White Paper; we are presented with a white flag."

The Liberal Democrats pointed out that there was no mention of the government’s commitment to build one million homes by 2020.

Lib Dem shadow housing minister John Shipley said: “This white paper is utterly vacuous. It is not the ambitious, radical plan we need to solve the housing crisis.”

The Generation Rent charity welcomed the government’s new focus on the plight of renters. But director Dan Wilson Craw said that Javid had “failed to offer us anything of substance”.

He added: “By limiting longer tenancies to new purpose-built private rented homes, the government has offered renters the bare minimum. The institutional investors building homes for rent are already keen to encourage long term tenants, and it will typically be the better-off who can afford to rent them.

“The vast majority of tenants will remain in existing properties, with no certainty over their home beyond the next 12 months.”

Wilson Craw added that the ministers show look to the US for a policy that would really help renters.

He said: “The government should incentivise all landlords to offer tenants greater security by putting a cost on the use of evictions where the tenant has done nothing wrong. Only last week, the US city of Portland, Oregon, did exactly that.”




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