How to build popular support for social housing

What would a popular, left wing housing policy look like?

Three of the most pressing and controversial areas of government policy in the UK at present are; childcare, housing and adult social care (see for example Nick Pearce’s blog on the subject).

It was no surprise when in his recent budget, George Osborne included announcements of extra money in these three areas.

Briefly, he announced tax cuts to help families with childcare costs, government guarantees for people trying to get a mortgage and a cap on the maximum people can spend on care in later life (the cap will be £72,000).

The left in British politics has been developing strong counter arguments on these topics in recent years. However, I do not believe that the left has yet developed a strong idea that the public will back on how to reform the housing system on the UK.

The left has stronger arguments on adult social care and child care.

On adult social care, the government is doing far less than the Dilnot commission recommended (they recommended a cap of more like £35,000). More impressively, Andy Burnham has been floating the idea of a national care service that would be free at the point of use.

On childcare the government’s announcements seems to disproportionately benefit richer households. In contrast, the Resolution Foundation and others have been making the argument for more universal, high quality childcare services.

In both cases, the left has developed a case that a sizeable percentage of the public would support.

Despite a lot of work I do not think that the same could be said for housing.

For example, Jack Dromey’s response to the new housing policies announced in the budget rightly pointed out the government’s failure to stimulate the construction industry. However, it was weaker on what Labour’s alternative approach would look like.

For many on the left the default housing policy is to build more council houses. One of the major problems with this policy is that it is not popular with the public.

In general the public do not support the idea of building new homes of any type.

Do you support new house building?

By a massive majority the public far prefer the idea of owning than renting.

Would you prefer to rent or buy?

And, when asked to say which housing policies they most support they chose giving assistance to first time buyers and increasing access to mortgages more than they chose building more council housing.

The challenge for the left then is, can they develop housing policies that both address the major problems of housing need facing the country and are popular with the public.

Any thoughts from readers would be most appreciated.

8 thoughts on “How to build popular support for social housing

  1. The Labour Party are facing too problems at the moment. On the one hand they are terrified of inciting negative coverage from the right-wing press. They are not only reluctant to make any firm commitments prior to 2014, but there is also an air of strategic silence as they watch public disdain for the cuts rise.

    On the other hand they are also suffering from being in opposition. Stories from the Opposition Ministers get maybe 20 seconds on the evening news at best. So, the announcements that are made rarely disseminate to the public.

  2. Both excellent points. My concern comes from being a policy geek. I am worried that Labour will get in without a plan that has been well communicated to the public, like Hollande did in France, and then proceed to do something that means they instantly become very unpopular…

    • Thomas I completely agree with you. The worst thing Labour can do is get too comfortable. Ministers and elements of the press are already talking like an electoral victory in 2015 is an inevitability. We mustn’t forget that a 10 point lead in the polls against an incumbent government isn’t uncommon. Perhaps a little optimistically, I suspect senior strategists are aware of this, which is why I think we will see an end to this silence towards the end of this year.

  3. Pingback: Towards a popular left wing housing policy | Dream Housing

  4. I wonder how much opposition to new housing is based on the lack of infrastructure support which follows new builds?

    I don’t have any statistics, or facts, so it is really a question, but how often does one hear about a new housing development, school and other social amenities being built at the same time in an area? My gut feeling is not that often even though this would stimulate further construction and help quell local opposition if the new services being provided help fill a community need; the additional properties are no longer a burden in a strained community.

    Of course one of the practical issues with this is that infrastructure costs public funds that will not be paid back, unlike housing which can ultimately be sold.

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