The final countdown

It’s been a tough job with so many to choose from but here are my 10 worst housing policies of the election campaign.

As we prepare to go to the polls, here are a few final reminders of what’s on offer:

1) We’re not going to tell you (Conservative). With extra points for repeated appearances, the Tory refusal to spell out where £12 billion of cuts in benefit spending will come from takes top spot. I first blogged about this before the short campaign began and we’ve learned little more apart from a pledge (sort of) to protect child benefit. Within hours of Iain Duncan Smith telling the BBC yesterday that ‘the work hasn’t been done yet’ on the specifics, The Guardian was publishing leaked documents with DWP proposals including increasing the bedroom tax and cutting housing benefit completely for the under-25s.

2) Exempt main homes worth to £1 million from inheritance tax (Conservative). Brilliant! A tax cut for the very well housed (aka bribe for Tory voters) that will further establish inheritance in its rightful place as the main route into home ownership.

3) Extend the right to buy to housing association tenants (Conservative). Yes, it’s true we’ve tried this before and had to drop it. Yes, forcing charities to sell their assets is a bit iffy. But trust us now we’ve found a way to pay for it: forcing councils to sell their best stock. All the homes sold will be replaced one for one, honest. What’s that you say? It doesn’t stack up? Sorry, we seem to be running out of time for questions on this one.

4) Stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers (Labour). Starter Home Initiative (Conservative). I’m cheating a bit here by going for two different appeals to first-time buyers. On the first, yes we know it achieved next to nothing last time we tried it, but we need something to sound aspirational and what’s £250 million between friends? On the second, watch housebuilders turn the ‘20 per cent discount’ into extra profits but at least there will be new homes. The element that takes this into the top ten is that, under what must surely be called Starter Home Initiative Two, they will be able to build them instead of all that pesky affordable housing.

5) Help to Buy ISAs (Conservative). Fiddle with Help to Buy ISAs (Labour). Another stroke of genius! From one party, a policy/bribe that will make little difference to those already priced out, inflate house prices, do nothing to build more homes and give a free £3,000 to people whose parents could afford to help them buy anyway. From the other, which knows this, a way to make the banks invest ISA savings in new housing projects even though savers could withdraw their money at any time. Honest.

6) Inheritable mortgages (UKIP). Despite a concerted effort to de-fruitcake its manifesto, this brilliant idea to inflate house prices even further somehow slipped through alongside a much more sinister UKIP plan to force social landlords to register the nationality of their tenants.

7) Protect the green belt (Conservative/UKIP). You don’t have to believe that the solution to the housing crisis is simply to build on the green belt to think that it’s daft to say no building on it. Ever.

8) Reduce the benefit cap (Conservative). Keep the benefit cap and review it (Labour). Yes we know we already have a system to decide the maximum that anyone can fairly receive in housing benefit or child benefit. We think it’s a good idea to introduce a completely different system on top of that rather than engage with questions of fairness directly. Yes, we know the hardship this is causing in areas with high housing costs. Yes, we know this could force social landlords turn away from housing people on benefit and undermine the system for financing new development. But this idea is very popular so we’re sticking with it/cutting it to £23,000 (delete as appropriate).

9) Reform the spare room subsidy (Liberal Democrat). You’ve all been so horrible to us that we’re not going to abolish it and we’re not going to call it the bedroom tax. Besides, it wasn’t on the front page of our manifesto.

10) Mansion tax (Labour). Yes, we know that long-term reform of the taxation of property is desperately needed, yes we know it could be a vital source of finance for affordable housing, so here’s a think-in-haste policy that could discredit the whole idea and by the way we’re going to spend the money on something else.


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