What might an early election mean for housing?
Theresa May’s announcement of a snap General Election has taken many people by surprise, but what will the decision mean for housing? Chartered Institute of Housing's head of policy Melanie Rees analyses the potential impact.
This morning’s announcement that the next General Election will take place on 8 June came as something of a surprise for most commentators, not least because the Prime Minister and her team have consistently batted away any suggestions that it was in the pipeline. But with Brexit tensions mounting and the BBC’s ‘poll of polls’ showing the Conservatives' share of the vote at 43 per cent compared to Labour’s 25 per cent, perhaps they felt like it was now or never.
There’s absolutely no doubt that Brexit will dominate the debate over the next seven weeks – after all, it lies at the heart of the decision to go early. Even though the housing crisis has worsened since the last election with rising homelessness, more families in temporary accommodation and a record low of new affordable housing delivered in 2015/16, will these issues grab the attention they deserve? Here are my initial thoughts on what the early election could mean for housing.
- We were promised a spring green paper setting out the shape of future funding for supported housing for elderly and vulnerable people. It will be bad news if this is delayed - we already know that providers have stalled new developments and are considering the future of their existing services. The need for supported housing isn’t going away so we must see an early resolution to the uncertainty with a commitment to flexible top-up arrangements that will grow to meet new need.
- The government has pushed ahead with the extended right to buy for housing association tenants in England, initially through a pilot programme with six associations with a regional pilot announced in the 2016 Autumn Statement. The policy was pursued on the basis that it was a 2015 election manifesto pledge. If the Conservatives win in June might it give them the opportunity to draw a line under that promise along with the linked sale of higher-value council homes to fund it?
- If the Conservatives retain power, might we see a change of housing minister? It would be good to see some continuity in the post-election world - so far Gavin Barwell has demonstrated a reassuring grasp of the issues we face and this shows in the contents of the housing white paper. While some have said that the solutions it outlines don’t go anywhere near far enough, the slight shift in emphasis away from home ownership as the preferred tenure – including the watering down of the starter homes proposals – was a development CIH welcomed.
Whatever happens, over the next seven weeks CIH will be engaging with politicians from all parties to make the case for the new homes we need – including homes to rent which people on the lowest incomes can afford.