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