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The government’s stance on Universal Credit is an ominous sign of its priorities

By 09/07/2021No Comments

All of which leaves housing competing with other unprotected programmes for the crumbs that will be left over as the chancellor tries to square the circle of spending and taxes. But then ask yourself where social and affordable housing – or homelessness – will come in the list of priorities within housing.

Way below homeownership, certainly, for a government as focused on political advantage as this one. Even if it does not come up with a new, eye-catching initiative in the autumn, First Homes will continue to suck subsidy away from affordable homes while the government has just spent billions on a stamp duty holiday that has contributed to housing becoming more unaffordable at the fastest rate since 2004.

Below fire safety? Probably. The post-Grenfell, post-EWS1 crisis shows no signs of going away and the government will surely have to come up with more money.

“Even if it does not come up with a new, eye-catching initiative in the autumn, First Homes will continue to suck subsidy away from affordable homes”

Below decarbonisation? In the run-up to COP26 definitely and in the longer term probably as the costs are too high to be borne by individual homeowners without political costs. Where will that money come from?

All of which leaves social and affordable housing out on a limb, especially in areas like London where it costs the most and where people have a bad habit of voting Labour.

The issues of Universal Credit and housing are of course intimately connected through Conservative attitudes towards people on benefits and in social housing and cuts in benefits will translate directly into rent arrears.

Turn that on its head, though, and investment in genuinely affordable and secure homes is by far the best way to make work pay for the millions of low-paid workers we have all relied on over the past 18 months.

Equally, it is hard to think of a period that has provided more evidence of the health costs of poor housing.

The arguments are strong, but so were those made for the Universal Credit uplift, and time is running out.

Jules Birch, columnist, Inside Housing

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