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Welcome to the second instalment of ‘Small Solutions to Big Problems’, where we take a look at steps the Government is taking to address the cost-of-living crisis.

This isn’t a formal series, of course, and ministers have not officially adopted that slogan. But it nonetheless seems to be the spirit in which the issue is being approached.

Last week, for example, we looked at how deregulating childcare is a worthwhile enterprise but only a small step towards tackling the deep structural issues which make it so expensive to start a family. (Ryan Bourne has much more detail.)

We might say much the same thing about the revived proposals to give social housing tenants the right to buy their homes.

To be clear, that does mean that it is better than nothing. As Robert Colvile explains, this is in fact merely reviving the right that state tenants had before council housing stock was transferred over to housing associations.

The plan set out in 2015, and since piloted, also involves compensating HAs and building new stock, which puts to bed the old argument about the original scheme running down the supply of social housing (although as Colvile again points out, that supply remains much higher than average).

But as Polly Mackenzie of Demos points out, on its own the policy is clearly inadequate to the crisis in home-ownership facing the country.

It creates a huge disparity between the support offered to people who have ended up in social housing (“a subsidy of up to £100k”) and those in the private rented sector (“a tiddly Help to Buy ISA and equity loans that have to be repaid”).

It also distributes the subsidy on the basis of historic rather than current need – those social tenants in a position to buy will most likely be those who have been in social housing a long time, stabilising their situation and benefiting over a long span from paying lower rent than their counterparts in the private market.

Meanwhile, as I have written before, those vehicles which have been set up to support first-time buyers outwith the social housing sector all feature arbitrary limits on their purchasing power which aren’t even index-linked:

“The £450,000 limit has been in place ever since LISAs were first introduced. Yet according to the ONS, between December 2016 and December 2021 the average house price in England rose by more than 24 per cent. The purchasing power of a LISA is falling every year.”

It is a sign of how totally the Government seems to be ignoring the rented sector that index-linking or better yet scrapping these caps, which seem to serve no obvious purpose and would cost the Government next to nothing, doesn’t appear to have been even considered yet.

Even then, there is only so much that fiddling with demand can do when the underlying cause of the housing crisis is decades of supply restrictions. And Boris Johnson has abandoned planning reform, so he clearly doesn’t intend to do anything about that.

It’s the same in so many areas of policy – here’s a cheery thread of just a few, to which we should definitely add our woeful record at building infrastructure – Grant Shapps’ decision not to proceed with the underground station for HS2 at Manchester being just the latest example.

These problems are not all this Government’s fault. Many of these problems are long in the making and have deep structural roots which long predate Johnson’s premiership or even David Cameron’s. Arguably the Party’s relatively weak position in the House of Commons from 2010 to 2019 was a barrier to tough action, as when Nick Clegg blocked sensible childcare reform.

But the Government has a handsome overall majority now. It must do better than even the most worthwhile technocratic tinkering.