It’s a been a confused week for any keen observers of the housing market here in Britain. On one hand housing minister Grant Schapps and the Prime Minister are talking about ending lifelong tenure for council house tenants. They want to see tenants moving to the private sector and away from social housing when they’re better off and can afford to.
And then we hear senior Liberal Democrat, Simon Hughes, saying that his party opposes that.
If we’re being generous, we’d say that such bumps are inevitable in a coalition government. The more cynical commentator would say that the government is in disarray with the PM making up policy on the fly.
But perhaps the most astonishing revelation that comes out of this debate is the fact that social housing, indeed housing in general, did not form a part of the Coalition Agreement drawn up by the two partner parties to help them manage their relationship.
It seems to us at Upad that this government is looking to the private sector to take the strain of dealing with the housing problems the country faces. Needless to say, we don’t object. But if that’s the government’s policy, there needs to be a quid pro quo. One example: private landlords are struggling to get finance and we’d like to see improvements there.
If that's the policy - and that's where we question whether there's really any coherent policy behind the government's recent announcements. The Emergency Budget handed landlords an enormous disincentive to keep dealing with social tenants. We'd hoped that LHA payments would be speeded up and made directly to landlords; but these issues remain unaddressed, and instead, rates have been cut. Many landlords are now considering abandoning the social sector altogether.
Most of all, and it is true of business people the world over and in different sectors other than housing, what we need is stability and enough certainty to plan. This brings confidence. At the moment we’re concerned that ongoing uncertainty and a lack of a coherent housing policy is proving to be a bad thing for private landlords.