Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Pale imitations.....

. Today's Financial Times brings us news of the latest Conservative brain-wave, the 'right to move'. Presumably, this is a rather lame attempt to imitate Margaret Thatcher's 'right to buy' scheme which did undoubtedly appeal to upper working class types who had always dreamed of owning their own home. Under this scheme, those in social housing will be given the right to tell their social landlord to sell the property and use the proceeds to buy a property in any part of the UK. Apparently this will;

"allow people to move in search of work or to be near their families, and prevent the growth of sink estates with generations of unemployed."

However, like many ideas that spew forth from the Tories these days it's a complete non-starter in the real world which should send a fission of fear through everybody at the prospect of this party actually running the show. The National Housing Forum, predictably, concentrates on the impact it will have on their organisation;

It would mean that housing associations could end up with properties dotted all over the country, with their maintenance staff having to spend entire days travelling across the country, and emitting huge amounts of carbon, just to get to one property.”

One major unanswered question however is how the variances in the property market will be covered. What if the revenue from selling the property is substantially less than the cost of the new property? How will the shortfall be made-up? Presumably it will have to be made-up from central funding. So, we have increased maintenance costs, potentially large sums paid out to cover these shortfalls, it doesn't look too hot right now does it? In fact, it looks like it could potentially be substantially more expensive than actually investing in building more social homes. Of course, it is also the minus the economic benefits of created jobs and investment that a building program would bring.

Also, the prospect of migration really does nothing to 'break-up' sink estates; people will move and a certain % will get a job then the rest will be back in the same situation as before. So, it moves the problem to different locations but doesn't actually really do anything to solve it. Giving 10% ownership for 5 years 'good behaviour' is similarly neither here nor there.

Similarly this contradicts an alleged commitment by the Tories to greater housing supply. Apparently;

"The party wants to see more homes built by means of local housing trusts, whereby communities would build their own homes."

Quite how this is supposed to work isn't explained which given the above proposals is probably a blessing in disguise. Given the raft of Tory proposals to restrict building sites and also their stated hostility to eco-towns it is hard to see where these houses will actually be built; maybe on little clouds floating in the sky?

Maybe, given the paucity of Tory policy when it does emerge, it would be best for all concerned if they carried on living-up to their reputation as a policy-free-zone??

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