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The first Conservative-majority government since 1992 have announced their legislative agenda for the upcoming year. A new Housing Bill was among the 25 proposed and follows through on some of the most controversial election pledges.
Margaret Thatcher’s right-to-buy scheme will be extended to 1.3 million housing association tenants in England. Tenants that have lived in their properties for three years or more will be offered discounts worth up to £102,700 in London and £77,000 in the rest of England. The process would, the party promises, be used to build replacement affordable homes on a one-for-one basis.
The housing consensus view is that the extended right-to-buy will further weaken an already shrinking social housing sector. Henry Gregg, Assistant Director of Campaigns & Communications at the National Housing Federation, said: “This policy is not a genuine solution to our housing crisis. An extension to the right-to-buy would mean that housing associations are working to keep pace with replacements rather than building homes for the millions stuck on waiting lists.”
Since the Housing Act in 1980, social housing has dwindled from about a third of all homes to barely a fifth, and experience suggests the ‘one-for-one’ promise is far from certain. The housing sector is seeking to fight the proposals with concerns that a generation of young people will consigned to living in overpriced new homes that won’t be at ‘social’ but at ‘affordable’ rents (80 per cent of market rates), and poor quality rented housing.
Another announcement was the abolition of housing benefit for 18–21 year-olds on Jobseekers Allowance. Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, called it a “disaster for thousands of young people”, adding: “For many young people, living with their parents simply isn’t an option. Housing benefit can be all that stands between them and homelessness. It can mean keeping a roof over their heads whilst they look for work or get their lives back on track. Far from helping them, taking this support away could make it even harder for them to find a job.”
Young people without a stable home will find it much more difficult to search and apply for jobs: at best they will be constantly changing location; at worst they will be sleeping rough. Neither situation is conducive to motivation and focus. The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said the cut will affect about 20,000 young adults and will save only around £0.1 billion.