I will get to the question of funding and whether it is an investment in the future. The figures I have read out are actually flattering to the era since 1979. I am genuinely saying that this a cross-party failure, because under the right to buy we have sold off 2 million homes since 1979—far more than we have built.
The question is, what do we do? My argument is that this is not just about a change in policy. It is actually about a change in the whole philosophy on social housing. I argue that there are three principles that have been in effect since ’79 and need to be replaced. These principles were brought in by the ’79 Government, but have not fundamentally changed.
The first principle is that the market will provide; the market will build. We know from experience, despite the many efforts of different Governments, that the structural barriers in the market such as developers, incentives to build for the high end of the market and the cost of land mean that the market will not provide sufficient housing at the scale and speed required. There is no historical evidence to suggest otherwise. Indeed, the figures show that it is not in the private sector that the failure to build is most pronounced compared with the 1970s; it is actually in the social housing sector.
The thing that we have all missed is that the social housing sector is the bedrock of an effectively functioning housing market. In other words, it does not just benefit those who live in social homes. It benefits everybody, because it is more like to keep prices down and avoids some of the problems that we see in the private rented sector. The Government have to be fair and recognise—at least at the level of principle—that saying the market will build will not cut it any more, and that the Government need to play a substantial role when it comes to building.