22 MAY 2015

Housing has quite rightly moved up the political agenda in recent years as the shortage of homes becomes more acute. Demand currently outweighs supply and affordable housing is becoming hard to find in many parts of the country. Here we look at how the new Government plans to tackle the issue, based on our Conservative Manifesto analysis.

Women have a particular interest in plans for housing: they often end up in social housing and poor living conditions. This is because women are more likely to shoulder both primary childcare duties and the burden of low pay.

Single women claim 52 per cent of housing benefits, just under half of whom have dependent children. In the early days of election campaigning, the Women’s Budget Group emphasised that ‘meaningful investment in social housing would help create a housing policy that supports women.’

The political parties all waved their housebuilding flags before the election and now it is down to the new Conservative government to implement their stated plan: build 200,000 new starter homes for first time buyers under the age of 40 (at a 20 per cent discount). If successful this may help make a home more affordable but so far there is no clear time limit on this policy.

The independent Lyons Housing Review says we need 200,000 homes a year by 2020 so will the government plans outlined go far enough? It seems that the most vulnerable in society, often single mothers, will continue struggling to find affordable housing and risk becoming more dependent on state benefits.

Young people will also feel the effects. The proposed 20 per cent discount will help some first time buyers on to the property ladder but will make little impact if more homes are not available. In fact most 16 and 34 year olds rent. Additionally 18 to 21 year olds on Jobseeker’s Allowance may no longer be automatically entitled to housing benefit if manifesto plans go ahead.

It is likely that house prices will continue to rise and probably exclude those on lower pay from good quality housing. So, will the proposed Cities Devolution Bill, which is expected to give new powers to English regions over housing, make a difference? It will now be in the hands of local authorities to deliver on the building of affordable homes so desperately needed, so watch this space.

From E15 to Digs, there have been numerous campaigns in recent years against sky-high property prices. Women and single mothers in particular often bear the brunt of this situation, unable to balance work and childcare. There are already grumblings about the Right-to-Buy plans being unhelpful and ‘short-termist’, and their extension to housing associations could even be unlawful.

Housing is at crisis point in the UK and the Government has its work cut out if it is to avoid ending up with cities in which only rich people can live and poorer mothers and children are moved away from their families and social support. It is up to all of us to keep watching and to comment whenever necessary.