Housing could win votes for Cameron

The housing market has always been a vote winner. You only have to think back to the days of MIRAS, the introduction of Right to Buy and Dame Shirley Porter to know how true that is. Little wonder then that Tory leader David Cameron wants to reinvent the Right to Buy market.

The Tories are considering a scheme whereby council tenants would be able to buy their homes through their rent payments. No doubt this will be popular for the vast number of people living in social housing who can’t otherwise afford to get on the property ladder. But it has also raised some eyebrows. How will it work? What effect will it have on the level of social housing stock? Is it responsible to lend to people who, on a traditionally underwritten mortgage, wouldn’t qualify for mainstream credit?

Either way, the rights and wrongs of Right to Buy are irrelevant to the success of the housing market. Ever since Margaret Thatcher’s government introduced the Right to Buy through the Housing Act 1980 some 2.2 million properties have been sold by local authorities, and between 1999 and 2004 gross advances on Right to Buy mortgages in England rose 25% per year. The Right to Buy market is a healthy one indeed.

Yes, there may be flaws in the Cameron concept of home ownership, but the Tory dream of a property-owning democracy would give rise to a buoyant housing market and a healthy economy.

Just 20 years ago most home owners dreamt of paying off their mortgages early. But that wish has long since turned sour with most would-be first-time buyers now wanting only to secure the dream of home ownership. Stamp Duty, Council Tax, the introduction of HIPs and the abolition of MIRAS only make matters worse. A Conservative government would pioneer a planning revolution to increase supply to meet demand and help more people achieve their home ownership dreams.

It might be a long way off but it’s better than Blur, Two Shags and Prudence have ever done.