Minister admits Boris Johnson’s housing policy will not help “most” people

Katie Neame
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Lisa Nandy has declared that “far more ambition” is needed to tackle the UK’s housing crisis after a housing minister admitted that Boris Johnson’s newly unveiled housing policy would be unlikely to benefit “most” people.

The Prime Minister announced, in a speech on housing policy earlier this month, that recipients of housing benefit would be allowed to use welfare payments to contribute towards the cost of a mortgage.

Nandy tabled a written parliamentary question asking for an “estimate of the number of people who could benefit each year from the government’s proposals to allow housing benefit to be used towards the cost of a mortgage”.

In response, government minister David Rutley said: “There are five million in receipt of housing support, and though we know that it is likely most will not be in a position to take up the new policy, it removes a barrier that currently prevents thousands of families from buying their own home.”

Commenting on the response, the Shadow Levelling Up and Housing Secretary argued: “If ever you needed proof that this tired government is out of ideas, this is it. Homeownership rates have plummeted under the Conservatives. Now we learn that even Boris Johnson’s own government doesn’t think his plan to fix it will work.

“We need far more ambition if we’re to solve the housing crisis and give families the security of owning their own home. That’s why Labour has plans to build more affordable homes, link the definition of ‘affordable’ to local wages, and give first-time buyers first dibs on new developments.”

The proposal announced by Johnson, dubbed the ‘benefits-to-bricks’ policy, has been widely criticised for not appearing to account for the fact that people with more than £16,000 in savings do not qualify for Universal Credit.

During a debate earlier this month, Nandy urged Michael Gove to discuss the plan with mortgage lenders and raise “the very real difficulties” of people on the benefit – specifically “how they get a mortgage without any kind of deposit”.

During his speech, the Prime Minister also announced an extension of the Right-to-Buy scheme to housing association tenants. Labour has highlighted that the Department for Levelling Up (DLUHC) has so far failed to confirm if an impact assessment of the proposal was undertaken before Johnson’s statement.

According to The Times, the Housing Secretary accused Downing Street of “bouncing” the Right-to-Buy proposal before it was ready. Officials had reportedly not yet completed an impact assessment on how it would affect social housing stock or calculated how many new homes would be required to replace those sold.

Appearing before the levelling up, housing and communities committee on June 13th, Gove said his Department had “not conducted a full equalities impact assessment yet”, but added: “We will do, as ever, when we bring forward policy.”

Gove told MPs on the committee: “There is still additional detail that requires to be furnished to the House, to the Department and to housing associations. Until we have worked through all of that detail, which we are aiming to do in short order, you cannot really do the full impact assessment.”

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