On Wednesday the Housing Minister John Healey gave a speech to the Fabian Society where he attacked the growth in home ownership that took place under the Conservatives. He said:
This decade is the first time ever that homeownership has declined – from 70.9% of all households in 2003, to 68.3 today. Some point to the recession having shaken people’s desire to invest in bricks and mortar. But in reality, homeownership had been dropping since 2005.
And I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing.
At the moment, up to 70% of the population has their money tied up in property. The proportion was boosted by Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy. But you don’t need to be a grocer’s daughter to know that it’s not a good idea to have all your eggs in one basket.
For many people the aspiration for home ownership is about resolved the opportunity to pass wealth on to the next generation. Old Labour despised this, of course. So, it seems, does Healey.
As housing wealth is passed from parents to children, inequality is compounded over the generations.
That’s something that a party that believes in fairness should tackle and I’m pleased that finally the Tories are getting the scrutiny they deserve on their inheritance tax plans. A plan that makes Britain more unequal as time goes on, increasing the unearned windfalls that the children of wealthy parents get.
"Children of the wealthy?" In my borough someone who bought their council flat under the right to buy can find themselves above the Inheritance Tax threshold. Healey wants to punish those who wish to pass the asset on.
There is an inequality that some of us are home owners and some of us aren't. A survey of council tenants in my borough showed 70% would like to be home owners. Do we level up or level down? Do we follow Hesley approach of thwarting their ambition or do we seek policies to fufil to help make home ownership possible for the many and not just the few? I want more people to have the pride and independence that home ownership brings. Increased home ownership benefits everyone because mixed and stable communities results in lower crime and better social cohesion than the alternative of monolithic social rented housing.
Healey's belief that home ownership is a bad thing because it promotes inequality does not extend to his own conduct. The day after his speech it emerged that he had made an £88,000 profot after selling his taxpayer funded second home. While giving lectures to the rest of us about the unfairness of home ownership he plans to pocket the proceeds from the house he bought at our expense.