It ain’t what you own – it’s the way you own it

Freed from a tenuous TV hold on the Tory line, Robert Jenrick gets to grips with housing policy.

Housing Minister Robert Jenrick

Taking time out from tuning his TV hologram, Bostin’ Bob has given an actual interview… on housing.

And it’s nothing to build on.

With his multi-million pound three home portfolio, Bostin’ Bob tells i he the “does not underestimate” the challenges posed by the housing crisis.

So why was there no commitment to social housing in the Tory manifesto?

“We’re building more housing association properties than were being built on average under the last Labour government [in their] 13 years in office. We’ve lifted the HRA (Housing Revenue Account) borrowing cap…so those local councils that want to build council houses – and many do – have the ability to do so now.”

The lines are well rehearsed, the conviction is… lacking.

As, on the evidence, is the delivery.

Labour pitches the biggest council and social housing programme in decades – with costs covered by the party’s Social Transformation Fund.

Half of the Fund – around £75bn over five years – will be allocated to housing built to “cutting edge” standards.

And, as part of the programme, Labour will re-define ‘affordable’ housing to link with local incomes, including social rent – estimated at around half the level of market rent – alongside new living rent and homes for low-cost ownership.

Bostin’ Bob’s charitability puts his faith in hope that “the numbers of new council properties will start to increase significantly in the years ahead”.

But there’s a kicker: “It’s obviously coming from a low starting point.”

The sheer statistical gall of it!

Citing the interview’s own stats, the NHF says 145,000 new social homes are now needed every year yet, in 2018, 6,000 were built.

This year, 37,825 homes were built to be let at discounted rents – with more than one million households on waiting lists.

And so it goes…

Bostin’ Bob says it is “categorically incorrect” to say that housing is not being prioritised under the current administration.

So “categorically incorrect” that the parsimonious one million homes over five years platitude that’s pitched as policy doesn’t seemingly have to account for tenure.

Again, citing the interview’s own stats, this suggests an average of 200,000 homes a year when the government’s own target is 300,000.

So… it’s actually lower than the latest 241,000 figure for new supply.

No matter, when Bostin’ Bob can report old news moves to end Section 21 evictions – ready to with “act quickly” and “bring forward legislation over the course of 2020”.

The landlord bodies have tolerated such talk so far…

So far…

And, as the interview points out, what is the point of banning unfair evictions if landlords can still put the rent up beyond what a tenant can afford should they want to get shot of them.

Labour and the Lib Dems talk up rent control – but not the Tories.

Incongruity isn’t an issue for Bostin’ Bob.

In response to Section 21 consultation, the government is “going to consider carefully what contractual commitments can be made that provide greatest certainty to tenants. Whether that’s having clear guidance as to the rate at which your rent might rise or the length of your tenancy”.

That, as the interviewer points out, could mean rent control.

The Cruyff turn: “We don’t believe that old fashioned rent controls are a good idea, and that isn’t something that we want to revert to. We want to learn the lessons of the past and produce a fairer deal to tenants that works for the modern housing market.”

Bostin’ Bob is on surer ground when talking ownership – which is really all Tory housing policy amounts to:

  • A new market for long-term fixed-rate mortgages – tick
  • Make it easier for first-time buyers to get on the housing ladder with a 5% deposit – tick
  • Fix their interest rate for as long as they stayed there – tick
  • A “First Home scheme” that will provide a 30% discount for local first-time buyers – tick

Bostin’ Bob reels ‘em off.

Or reels them in.

“If we can establish this market – and we think we can – it will make it far easier for young people to get on the housing ladder, and then have certainty that they’ll be able to afford the mortgage payments, if their earnings and career prospects don’t improve over the course of their working lives.

“We think this could be a transformational policy, which we hope to be able to launch rapidly.”

There you have it – the housing crisis solved.

If you don’t own you’re owned.

Who needs to show up at the National Housing Summit to say so.

By the way, anyone seen Esther McVey?

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