It is said that an Englishman’s home is his castle, yet getting on the property ladder, or even finding affordable rented accommodation, is not as easy as it once was. Like many others, I was shocked last week to read the story of a refugee family who were given a £2 million home in an expensive area of London, paid for by taxpayers’ money.
The real problem lies beneath the surface. Properties which have been owned by councils for years have risen in value to a point at which social housing tenants – through no fault of their own – end up living in houses and areas they would never be able to afford to rent at market rates. Social housing should be a safety net for those who are most vulnerable. What we should not see is private tenants or buyers unable to afford homes in the areas where their taxes pay for other people to live. This is one of the reasons the Government has introduced a cap on housing benefit.
The problem is tricky, but the solution is, according to Grant Shapps, the Housing Minister, “blindingly obvious”: councils should have the freedom to sell their most valuable properties. This simple measure would free up councils’ money to be spent on building new homes in cheaper areas, thereby avoiding pricing people out of the market and reducing waiting lists for those who need social housing most. The building of new houses is just as important as selling off old ones. Not only will it help to stop the gap of Britain’s housing shortage, but new jobs will be created as a result.