Originally posted on November 11 on my blog for Inside Housing.
Look behind the headlines about going back to the 1970s and the shift in the debate on public investment in the opening week of the election campaign could have a huge impact on housing.
On the surface Thursday’s speeches by chancellor Sajid Javid and shadow chancellor John McDonnell are about who will spend more on public services and who will be more responsible on borrowing.
But they are also about a more fundamental change in the fiscal targets and measures that the government sets itself.
Javid has abandoned the government’s previous fiscal rules and loosened his previous target of reducing net debt in favour of one that it should be flat or falling by the end of the next parliament.
By allowing investment in infrastructure of up to 3% of national output, he would create room for an extra £20 bn a year of investment – although he does not appear to see housing as part of his ‘infrastructure revolution’ and ‘decade of renewal’.
McDonnell would go much further by excluding borrowing for investment from his borrowing targets and looking instead for an improvement in the overall government balance sheet by the end of the next parliament.
He plans an extra £50 bn a year of investment via a National Transformation Fund overseen by the Treasury and based in the north of England.
This revolution involves a Green Transformation Fund and a Social Transformation Fund and it definitely does include housing – retrofitting existing homes and building new ones.
For all the political arguments about reckless borrowing and soaring debt, both plans are essentially about raising borrowing to increase investment.