Ten Liberal Democrat council leaders, including the party’s local government spokesperson Mayor Dorothy Thornhill, have written to the Guardian to call for the government to allow councils to borrow money to build council houses to deal with the “national emergency” in housing provision:
As Liberal Democrat council leaders we are outraged at the government’s short-sightedness in selling off council homes to pay for the right-to-buy extension to housing associations (PM warns councils over housing provision, 12 October). We have a vast shortage of affordable homes, which constitutes nothing short of a national emergency, and yet the government is seeking to make quick financial gains by disposing of properties that could provide much-needed homes for generations. Forcing right to buy on housing associations was the wrong policy before the election and it remains the wrong policy now. Shifting homes from one tenure to another without addressing our failure to build enough homes overall is like rearranging the deckchairs on a sinking ship.
Housing policy must be fair, and this policy is anything but. It is unfair to the 1.6 million people desperately waiting for homes, unable to get on with their lives. It is unfair for renters, whose rents will be pushed up as more families are squeezed into the private rented sector. And it is unfair for taxpayers who will be footing a higher housing benefit bill. Slashing the number of affordable homes in crucial areas is a nonsensical decision, and we urge the government to reconsider this sell-off.
If the government is serious about tackling this national emergency, they should listen to Lib Dem leader Tim Farron’s call for immediate action to allow councils to borrow funds to build. This would demonstrate a genuine commitment to building the homes that we desperately need.