Andrew Stunell seems such a nice man, and he’s a Methodist Lay Preacher to boot.
But an observer of his speech to the LibDem Conference yesterday might be forgiven for thinking he was stretching the truth just a little. Given the LibDems good track record in
supporting social housing over many years, and their general embarrassment over the housing policies of the government, I can only assume he was struggling to find anything to say that shows that the LibDems have some influence over Pickles and Shapps.
He started off in the right territory by calling housing the ‘Cinderella’ policy. “It is one of the most important issues facing the entire country” he said. “The record of previous governments on social housing was nothing short of a disgrace……Social Housing just wasn’t important enough for the last government.” Now I agree that far too few social homes in particular were built under Labour, but surely Mr Stunnell realises that you can’t build more social homes with a 60% cut in funding?
But then comes the subterfuge. “That’s why we’ve introduced the Affordable Rent programme…. we’re on course to build 170,000 new social homes in the next four years…… thanks to Liberal Democrat influence in government, we have a social housing target that we can and will meet…. ..the first government to deliver an increase in social housing during its term of office for more than thirty years.”
So affordable rent is the new social rent. Despite the fact that they bear no relation to each other at all. The rents are much higher, up to 80% of market rent, and the terms are not secure. Not only are new homes to be let at ‘affordable rent’ levels, but many re-lets of existing social rented homes are going to be as well.
Boris Johnson is the expert at smoke and mirrors in terms of housing statistics. He is
very clever about including almost everything built under the much abused term ‘affordable’. But even he hasn’t had the gall to claim that affordable rent and social rent are the same thing. At least not yet.