Conservative conference

In a piece for tomorrow’s FT, I describe today’s two housing announcements – and their promise of 200,000 new homes and 400,000 new jobs – as “optimistic, verging on the far-fetched”.

But as one minister pointed out to me (as we trudged through the Manchester drizzle) the figures haven’t been given a timeline. He is right: no one has said that this will be achieved within a year or two, or even in the life of this parliament.

So what is the government doing?

  1. Firstly council house residents will be incentivised to use the existing “right-to-buy” scheme through bigger price discounts. This could generate funds to build new social housing on a one-for-one basis.The right-to-buy scheme is seen as a Thatcherite success but led to a fall in social housing stock: there is now a waiting list of about 5m individuals waiting to be housed. Right-to-buy deals have slowed to just a trickle (around 3,000 last year) partly because residents now typically pay around 90 per cent of the market price for their home. Bigger discounts should mean more more deals. Senior DCLG figures tell me that until the mid-90s the discount was around 30 per cent, which generated about 30,000 sales a year. Expect a return to that kind of

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