Tory housing minister says building more council homes will increase inequality

Gavin Barwell dismissed Jeremy Corbyn's policy as 'remarkable'

Jon Stone
Sunday 02 October 2016 19:29

Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to dramatically increase the construction of council homes will actually increase inequality, the Conservative housing minister today claimed.

Gavin Barwell told the party’s conference that the Labour plan to build at least 500,000 council homes as part of an increase overall housebuilding to a million would increase inequality between people who owned homes and those that did not.

He told a fringe event at the Birmingham gathering on Sunday afternoon that far from solving the housing crisis, the plan and would widen “the divide in society”.

“If we carry on building at the current rate then by 2020 the average house in the south east of England will increase by about £1000 a week. That will mean normal people’s homes in Kent or Hampshire, or wherever, are going to be earning more than they’re earning,” Mr Barwell said.

“Think about the consequences of that in terms of the equality in society between people that are lucky enough to have or inherit a property – and those that don’t have property.

“That was what I think was so remarkable about what Jeremy Corbyn envisaged last week – because he envisaged a future where half of us live in council homes.

“If you’re going to build at the current rate – which is what he’s talking about – and half the people are going to go in council homes and half of them are going to own, the divide in society is only going to get wider and wider. I would have thought he cares about that.”

Gavin Barwell, Theresa May's new housing minister

Later in the same session Mr Barwell said he wanted to see more homes “of every single kind” constructed. He however listed the kinds of homes he would want built and did not mention council housing.

“Bluntly, I want to see more homes of every single kind built in this country,” he told the fringe event.

“I want to see more homes build for sale, I want to see more private rented sector accommodation go up, and I want to see more affordable rented accommodation go up – things like rent to buy, all of that.”

Shadow housing minister Teresa Pearce last week told the the Labour conference in Liverpool that the party would build 500,000 social homes within a five-year parliamentary term.

Mr Corbyn also said during his keynote speech that Labour government would give councils the ability to borrow against existing stock in order to build more homes.

Total housebuilding across all tenures currently sits just below 150,000 a year both in terms of starts and completions.

Council housing construction is dramatically down compared to the mid-20th century, however.

Theresa May said she wants to close Britain’s “homes deficit” in her speech outside Downing Street just after her appointment.

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