Editor’s comment: What will be new housing chief’s legacy?

Robert Jenrick, new housing communities and local government secretary. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA I

Robert Jenrick, new housing communities and local government secretary. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Images - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Christopher Addison would turn in his grave if he could see the state of Britain’s social housing sector a century after his landmark Housing Act (and if people could turn in their graves).

Decades of Right to Buy, restrictive borrowing and spending rules, austerity, privatisation and deregulation have ensured demand for social homes is soaring while councils not only have nowhere near the means to build enough but also no way of stemming the loss of their existing stock.

And is Boris Johnson's new housing (etc) secretary using his new platform and portfolio to address the problem of housing poverty that underpins so many other social problems including but not limited to poor mental and physical health, poorer education outcomes than those of families with stable homes, usage of food banks and difficulty holding down work? Has Robert Jenrick entered office with a plan to deliver the millions of genuinely affordable homes that are needed to get waiting lists down and to replace what has been lost since 1980?

No. He, like so many others who want to pull the wool over our eyes, talks simply about building homes without discussing tenure, as though trickle-down theory is real, as though building luxury developments on brownfield land that only people with six-figure salaries can afford will somehow benefit the people who are most in need. He talks of "reviving the dream" of home ownership as though owning a home is desirable in and of itself, instead of merely a defence against the precarious, perilous state of private renting and the inability of council housing to meet demand.

If he wants a dream to revive, he should look to Dr Addison's vision of stable, safe, high-quality social housing for those who need it, and ask the so-called dream of home ownership has resulted in a nightmare for so many.


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