Wednesday, 30 November 2011

My experience on the Politics Show and why Stephen Gilbert needs to read government press releases.

During the last week I was interviewed by BBC Spotlight about my own experiences trying to get on the 'housing ladder'. Parts of my interview were repeated on the Politics Show South West on sunday morning. I was talking about my own sense of frustration, I am one of the many people in Cornwall who want to simply live in a decent house they can afford. For the record (and if you're my landlord reading this) I have no problem with renting in itself. We pay a fair rent for our property and we are lucky to live somewhere that we can afford to pay the rent every month. The trade off however is that we live in a house without such things as central heating, double glazing, a garden, an allocated parking space and there is a limit to what we can do with the property. So with council houses being rarer than rocking horse dung buying is our only option to finding a suitable property.

The link for the show is here the section on affordable housing is about 34 minutes in, but will only be available until this sunday, the fourth of December. The section in which I feature focuses upon the government's new plan to introduce 95% mortgages. So to help first time buyers only a 5% deposit will be needed, a great step forward can't dispute that, but it won't help ordinary Cornish families. As I said on the Politics Show of my family's situation:

"We lack the substantial money needed for a mortgage and to save for a deposit, we don't have money at the end of the month to put forward for a deposit. I don't think we'd meet any criteria for buying a house that was much over a hundred thousand pounds, which is pretty much, every house in Cornwall."  

Even if somehow we found a deposit (and were eligible for the new government scheme), generic mortgage calculators indicate that an income of thirty thousand pounds per year is required to borrow a maximum of one hundred and twenty thousand pounds. With the average wage in Cornwall being about seventeen thousand pounds per year it is easy to see where my own situation and no doubt thousands of other Cornish people's situations are being failed by this new government scheme. The presenter Martyn Oates put this dilemma to the Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Gilbert:

"we've also heard from someone in Penzance desperate to buy his own home, he says because of the high average house prices in Cornwall even with the help of a mortgage indemnity scheme he still wouldn't be able to afford a house in Cornwall."

To which Stephen Gilbert replied: "There's no doubt that for many people it's still going to be challenging." He rightly said that the indemnity scheme will help people and goes on to say that the scheme "is going to help about ninety thousand people all across the country." (presumably meaning the UK and not Kernow). Puzzling enough the government's department in charge of the scheme: the Homes and Communities Agency website states and I quote "Helping nearly 10,500 struggling first time buyers own their own home." I am puzzled about this gigantic discrepancy between the government's figures and Gilbert's proud boasts. Ten thousand throughout the UK, that won't make a dent here or anywhere else. It's also worth noting that this new 'First Buy' scheme only applies to new builds, see my earlier criticisms of other schemes based on this model.

The other part of the government's housing policy is the resurrection of Thatcher's right to buy scheme. Offering council tenants their own properties at 50% of the value. As I blogged before this makes no economic sense, sell a house for half it's worth and you have to sell at least two to replace with one. Right to buy only truly works if a massive building plan is in place to replace stock privatised to tenants. According to Gilbert this is what the government is planning:

"The governments really clear on this Martyn where there is a home sold under right to buy it will be replaced on a one for one basis.... If we are selling one council house we are replacing it with another council house."

I would dispute the fact that the government is being clear on this subject I have seen no such promises as of yet. I sincerely doubt that with this spendthrift (except Trident) government that they will be investing the millions needed to replace housing stock. I can not find any link that promises the government is even replacing sold housing stock let alone doing it like for like. Even if replacing like for like -comes from anything but Gilbert's over active imagination- it's not enough, there aren't enough council houses now, plus the population is growing the government should be building more stock not keeping current inadequate levels.

Gilbert's final boast was:

"This will be the first government in thirty three years, to leave office in four years time with more social homes than we entered office with."

Can someone please remind me to fact check this before the next general election?


  1. replacing 3 or 4 bed council houses with 1 bed properties would probably make Gilbert's figures work.

  2. There's probably some way 10,000 could become 90,000 Ellery, I doubt Mr Gilbert even worked it out, I wouldn't be surprised if he had plucked the figures from fresh air.

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