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The Green party recently promised to build 500,000 social rented homes by 2020 if it wins the next election. Housing spokesperson for the Greens Tom Chance explains more about his party’s bold pledge
16 February 2015 | By Tom Chance
In pledging to build 500,000 new social rented homes by 2020, the Green Party means not just to make a dent in our housing crisis. We also want to put social housing back at the heart of government policy.
Social housing has provided decent, affordable homes for millions of people over the past 150 years. We want to bring an end to 40 years of sales, demolitions and budget cuts, now thankfully opposed by the Social Housing Under Threat campaign. Indeed, we drew on their work in formulating our manifesto commitment.
It seems incredible that we are currently the only political party willing to commit to build an average of 100,000 social rented homes a year. I take no particular joy in being the only party spokesperson able to say this. The pledge would have been considered a bare minimum in the days of Ted Heath and Harold Wilson.
The terms of political debate are depressingly narrow in Britain. Whether it is building new social housing, bringing the railways back into public ownership or decarbonising our energy supply, policies that are mainstream elsewhere in Europe are here cast as fringe lunacy.
First we need to heed loony radicals like Shelter and KPMG, and increase the direct investment from government. We propose to fund this largely by scrapping the buy-to-let mortgage interest tax allowance, a capital gains subsidy for private landlords. Savings on the benefit bill, and more broadly from improved health and employment, will also ensure that in the long term this policy is the most prudent approach.
We also propose to lift the borrowing cap on councils, which the LGA says could unlock at least 60,000 more homes. By abolishing the Right to Buy, hugely increasing direct investment in home insulation/refurbishment and ending austerity cuts to local government, we hope to put councils on an even more secure financial footing to build.
To be realistic we propose to gradually increase the grant, giving landlords and the construction industry the time to build their capacity.
This all forms one part of our response to the UK’s housing crisis. We also want to curb speculation on land and property, bring more empty homes into use, give private tenants much more secure tenure, diversify the building industry, and more.
The golden thread running through our approach is the right of all citizens to a secure, affordable and comfortable home. Social housing is one indispensable way to provide this.
Tom Chance is the Green Party housing spokesperson and a candidate of the Lewisham West and Penge constituency