Housing strategy dismissed as ‘nonsense’
A high-profile directly-elected mayor has dismissed the coalition government’s housing strategy as ‘nonsense’ .
Sir Robin Wales, Labour mayor of Newham, savaged the strategy at the East London Summit in Canary Wharf, this morning.
He said: ‘Has the government got a housing strategy? I must have missed it. If that is a housing strategy than I’m the mayor of Hackney.
‘It is nonsense, £400 million is less than 10 per cent of what was cut from housing - and that constitutes a national strategy? I think it would generate less than the Olympic village, let’s get real about it.’
The government published its housing strategy on Monday aimed at boosting house building. The document pledges £400 million for housing, and unveils a number of initiatives including a mortgage indemnity scheme for first-time buyers. It also includes details about a consultation on a right to buy scheme which will include discounts of up to 50 per cent, plans to force high earners in social housing to pay market rents and plans to bring forward the disposal of public land for house building.
Sir Robin said: ‘I’m sorry, that does not constitute a strategy… it constitutes a few cobbled together ideas with a bit of cash.’
He warned that the increase in right to buy discounts could lead to homes being sold off and rented out in the private sector, while councils would be left with a debt overhang that will ‘make it difficult for us to do anything’.
Sir Robin did welcome, however, the mortgage indemnity scheme.
He said councils need to think differently about how they can build new homes with less direct subsidy, including entering joint ventures with house builders in which the local authority takes on risk and a share of the profits. Newham Council has also mooted a plan to set itself up as a private landlord and is considering a licensing scheme for private landlords. Sir Robin has also pledged to prioritise people in work for social housing in the council’s allocation policies.