Hustings, speeches, and supporters. The British public have been inundated with updates on the leadership campaign by the now four potential candidates for the top job. Throughout the race to No.10, we have heard many topics debated amongst the candidates: trans discussions, fuel tax, the cost-of-living crisis and who said what to Boris Johnson. With Today’s news indicating, Rishi Sunak’s clear lead above the other candidates, a crucial discussion has yet to touched upon by the candidates. The Housing crisis.
The leadership debates
On Friday afternoon, as a policy and research analyst I attended the first Channel 4 leadership debate with 5 candidates participating. It was clear that all the candidates set out to chart a distinct pathway forward for Conservative leadership. A central line of argument proposed by Kemi Badenoch, the “anti-woke” candidate, concerned allegations that Penny Mordaunt had actively campaigned for gender self-ID. Despite Mordaunt ardently denying the allegations, it was clear that headed by Badenoch, the other 5 hopefuls wanted to mark Mordaunt as being too left, too unconservative and too “woke”.
Liz Truss set out to challenge Rishi Sunak’s fiscal history as the former Chancellor of Exchequer. Truss sought to question Sunak’s approaches during the pandemic, as she questioned Sunak’s approach to tax increases. Sunak challenged these assertions, stating that the choices he made to “save the NHS” during the unprecedented pandemic were unpopular, yet the right thing to do. This line of questioning continued on Sunday evening’s ITV live debate, with Sunak stretching as far as to label Truss’ plans for a £30 billion worth of tax cuts as “socialist”.
With the series of attack lines across candidates, both Sunak and Truss declined a third TV debate in the efforts to show “party-unity”. Nevertheless, the key issues all candidates communicated throughout the live debates unfortunately presented an overgrowing lacuna in political discourse. How can we truly level the playing field for all, if we do not address the looming housing crisis beyond artificial discourse?
The Housing Crisis
In both debates all the candidates discussed housing concerns in terms of the visual issues neighborhood planning committees have had, with Kemi Badenoch pledging to consult local people on future housing plans. However, this failed to stretch to discussions concerning the biggest issues with housing, namely the ability to get on the housing ladder and the sharp decline in available and suitable social housing.
A study by the ONS highlighted that the span of under 20 years, the affordability of social housing in England decreased between 2002 and 2014. People on the lowest incomes face social housing rent increasing to an unaffordable rate taken up and increasing amount of earnings over the last decade. Another core concern that must be considered is the quality of social housing.
Outside the scope of social housing, the ONS have released a report which demonstrated that in 2021 full time employees in England could typically expect to spend 9.1 times their workplace-based annual earnings on purchasing a home. Local levels have indicated that housing prices have grown faster than earnings in 91% of local authority districts thereby leading to a sharp reduction in housing affordability.
The looming housing crisis, though felt by many, has simply been ignored by the now four tory candidates. With the only current pledges pertaining to housing regarding thee “building of ugly homes” and increasing citizens’ ability to outright home ownership, a pressing question remains:, where are the concrete policy provisions for social housing stock? Thatcher’s 1980 Housing Act entailed the move towards the right to buy one’s council home, and has since created a lacuna in the availability of council home stock which needs to be fixed.
With additional hustings prepared for the remaining three candidates: Liz Truss, Penny Mordaunt and Rishi Sunak, the housing issue must be confronted. It is clear that for the leveling agenda to expand, policies must be made and, crucially, implemented, to increase council homeownership, improve the quality of social housing and tackle the generational divide between those who own and those who rent.
Photo Credit: Phillip Hallam