Cameron’s flagship housing policy only helps the rich, campaigners warn

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron © John Giles / pool
Prime Minister David Cameron called for a “national crusade” to build affordable housing by cutting planning regulations and launching “starter homes.” The plans have been criticized by housing charities for overlooking low earners.

In his closing speech to Conservative Party Conference on Wednesday, the PM pledged to tackle the nation’s growing housing crisis by forcing banks to lend more money to young people and freeing up land.

Cameron vowed to transform “Generation Rent” into “Generation Buy” by changing planning laws on affordable housing and building discounted “starter homes” over this parliament.

The PM described the move as a “dramatic shift” in housing policy, echoing Chancellor George Osborne’s promise on Monday that the Conservatives will build a “home-owning democracy.”

Cameron aimed his speech at young people in particular, many are whom are forced to rent or live with their parents.

When a generation of hardworking men and women in their 20s and 30s are waking up each morning in their childhood bedrooms – that should be a wakeup call for us,” Cameron said.

We need a national crusade to get homes built. That means banks lending, government releasing land, and yes – planning being reformed.”

A key element of Cameron’s housing policy will be to encourage property developers to build affordable houses to buy, rather than affordable houses to rent.

Today I can announce a dramatic shift in housing policy in our country. Those old rules which said to developers: you can build on this site, but only if you build affordable homes for rent. We’re replacing them with new rules. You can build here, and those affordable homes can be available to buy.”

Yes, from Generation Rent to Generation Buy. Our party, the Conservative Party. The party of home ownership in Britain today,” Cameron added.

The PM reiterated a pledge made during his election campaign to build 200,000 “starter homes” sold at a 20 percent discount over the next five years. The discount will apply to starter homes valued up to £250,000 outside London and £450,000 inside London.

Housing charity Shelter attacked Cameron’s plans, arguing that his so-called “starter homes” will only be affordable for high earners.

Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb said: “You don’t solve an affordability crisis by getting rid of the few affordable homes we’re building, yet that’s exactly what this policy will do.

Today’s announcement confirms our fears that Starter Homes costing up to £450k will be built at the expense of the genuinely affordable homes this country desperately needs. Our research has shown that these Starter Homes will too often only be ‘affordable’ for higher earners, not the millions of people working hard for an average wage who will be left stuck in expensive private renting.

There’s nothing wrong with helping people on to the property ladder, but the government has to invest in genuinely affordable homes to buy and rent for all of those on ordinary incomes who are bearing the brunt of this crisis.”

Campaign group Generation Rent called the plans inadequate in a tweet on Wednesday morning.

Starter homes policy is just nibbling around the edges of the housing crisis – where are people on low incomes going to live?” said Generation Rent director Betsy Dilllner.