As Conservatives we appreciate the courage and dedication of our armed services. However, councils of all stripes often fail to provide armed forces personnel with the recognition and reward they deserve. This is unacceptable and we should work to resolve this issue.
One way to reward service personnel and reduce their demand on social housing is by assisting them to build up capital in a property while they are in service. Councils could designate a proportion of social housing either new build or recently vacant properties for sale to armed forces personnel at a significant discount to the market rate.
The MOD could be persuaded to advertise this policy within their official website. This would be subject to relevant disclaimers to the effect they were not endorsing individual’s decision to purchase properties as a form of investment advice but making them aware of the opportunities the scheme presents.
Service personnel on low incomes currently cannot save enough to amass a sufficient deposit to procure a competitive mortgage. The decline in housing prices could also make it unwise for them to purchase at the market rate. However, by joining this scheme they would have, in effect, an automatic deposit equivalent to the level of the discount on the market rate. This would constitute equity in the house and provide some security if house prices fell further.
Local authorities could enter into partnerships with local private banking institutions to ensure formal recognition of this in serving personnel’s applications for a mortgage. This would enable armed forces personnel to gain a place on the housing ladder.
Service personnel would need to service the mortgage on these properties. Local authorities could assist by offering to provide suitable tenants at a fixed rate while the new owners were on deployment overseas. Occupancy rates would be ensured as the council could allocate tenants from its existing waiting lists, if the new owners so choose. This would allow service personnel to build up capital in a property in preparation for their exit from the service.
Local authorities would benefit in a series of ways. First they would receive an immediate cash sum from the sale. They could reinvest this in providing additional housing support. Second they could develop a more flexible system of housing support. Tenancies could be granted on a short term basis according to need. These tenants would enter the properties on the understanding the tenancy was not for life.
If the service personnel wished to avail themselves of the property then the existing tenants would be served notice to quit. The circumstances of tenants placed in accommodation rented from armed forces personnel could change significantly during the time they rented the property. On being asked to vacate the property they could be provided alternative accommodation more in accordance with their needs.
Consequently the local authority would be able to use its housing stock more efficiently with the facility for review when the owner returned from their deployment or left the armed services. The numbers of armed service personnel accessing social housing following a military career could also be reduced and if they so wished they could sell their properties and use the capital raised to fund the next stage in their career.
This scheme would confer considerable benefit on the service community at little cost to the council. It would facilitate the transfer of a proportion of social housing stock to the private sector and reduce the demand for that form of housing among service personnel. Councils would be free to use the money raised to improve the remaining social housing stock or to provide more targeted support for those families in need. It would be both popular and right – a unique combination in the area of housing policy.
The views expressed above are my personal views and not those of my employer or any other organisation with which I am associated.