There is fury after the Conservative Party quietly U-turned on its manifesto pledge to build a “new generation of social housing”.
The Tory manifesto promised to introduce new “council housing deals” that would lead to more social homes.
Theresa May said: “We will fix the broken housing market and support local authorities and housing associations to build a new generation of council homes right across the country.”
Critics were immediately suspicious because the manifesto didn’t put a figure or timescale on the number of new council homes.
It simply promised to work with councils to “improve their capacity” and “develop more good homes”.
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Now housing minister Gavin Barwell has finally admitted the entire policy is built on sand.
Asked during an interview with Inside Housing magazine whether the houses would be at “low-level council rents”, he replied: “No, I think the idea is that they are what you’d call affordable rents in housing terminology, but they are social housing.”
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‘Affordable’ rent is defined as anything up to 80% of the market rate, but Labour and housing charities say this is still unaffordable for many families.
True council house rents, meanwhile, are lower and decided by a specific government formula.
The Chartered Institute of Housing said Mr Barwell’s comment was “very disappointing”.
Chief executive Terrie Alafat said: “In reality, affordable rents are still often out of reach to a significant proportion of the population.
“We have to commit to building new homes that people can afford.”
It is the second U-turn following the Conservative manifesto launch after the backlash against the dementia tax.
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron slammed the social housing U-turn, saying: “This is another blow to those who are struggling to make ends meet and are in desperate need of a more affordable place to live.
“Without more homes for social rent for people on modest incomes, homelessness will continue to soar.
“We desperately need more genuinely affordable homes – what the Tories call affordable simply is not what most of us consider affordable.”