Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Tory social housing plan promising ‘British homes for British workers’ sparks backlash

The government is pledging priorty housing for people with “close connections” to the UK in a move branded as ‘divisive’

Zoe Grunewald
Wednesday 31 January 2024 07:53 GMT
There is a shortage of both social and private rental properties in the UK

A controversial new Tory housing policy which seeks to overhaul the housing system and promises “British homes for British people” has been widely criticised.

Under the new plans, the government is pledging priorty housing for people with “close connections” to the UK and their local area.

Applicants who can demonstrate a connection to the UK for at least 10 years and their local area for at least two years will be favoured, the policy will ensure.

But ministers are facing strong opposition on the plan with a letter signed by 14 housing bodies sent to Rishi Sunak warning it will force more people into homelessness.

Among those to sign it was Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, who said: “[The] proposals are nothing but a scapegoating policy that’s designed to be divisive.”

Human for Rights Network founder Maddie Harris also described the policy as “inherently racist”. She told The Morning Star: “A divided population creates opportunity for control and manipulation.”

Under the plan government also plans to clamp down on anti-social behaviour, meaning that those with unspent criminal convictions or certain civil sanctions could be banned from social housing for up to five years.

Tuesday’s announcement says that people who “repeatedly make their neighbours’ lives hell through anti-social behaviour” also face being evicted under a “three strikes” policy. Terrorists with certain convictions could also be blocked from living in social homes.

The consultation will run until March 26 and can be accessed through an online survey.

Housing minister Lee Rowley said: “If you abuse the system, making people’s lives a misery, or actively work against our British values, you are making a choice – such choices will have consequences and our proposals seek to stop such people getting a social home.

“The message is clear: play by the rules, pay in and we will support you. If you choose not to, this country is not going to be a soft touch”.

Asked about the plans on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, Mr Rowley said: “There’s always more to do. We’ve got a big programme at the moment, the best part of £12 billion of taxpayers’ money going into building more, but there will never be enough.

Housing minister Lee Rowley has announced the new consultation today (PA Wire)

“And so we have to make sure that the amount that we have is used in a way which is fair and which people have confidence in.”

The government is on track to miss its own target of building 300,000 houses a year, leading critics to suggest it is failing to address the burgeoning housing shortage in the UK.

But today Mr Rowley, who is the 16th housing minister since the Conservatives formed a government in 2010, has staunchly defended his party’s record on housing.

He said: “We have consistently built more houses and we’ve built them in the right place and it’s all part of a plan.”

The Government has said it wants to bring in the reforms “as soon as possible” but is seeking the views of the public, councils, social housing tenants and providers.

The Government is seeking the views of the public on the proposals (PA Archive)

In response, Ms Neate said: “This unnecessary and unworkable policy has been brought to cut people from the waiting list to cover up the government’s own failure to tackle the housing emergency.

“The government must stop hiding behind this smokescreen and actually do something that will make a difference – they need to build 90,000 social homes a year to give families a stable home.”

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in