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Political or Practical JG

Political or Practical?

Comments on the governments latest consultation to social housing reform.

The Conservative Government has recently announced a consultation on proposed reforms to social housing allocations following the theme of ‘British homes for British people’.


The sheer size of the social housing issue may be driving the emergence of this policy - some key metrics are below - and Conservatives will be looking to bolster their policy position ahead of the election.

  • National Housing Federation research says ‘8,386 new social homes were built in England in 2022/23, while 52,800 new households were accepted by councils as requiring housing’
  • Since 1991, there has been an average annual net loss of 24,000 social homes, further increasing the deep deficit – Shelter
  • Birmingham City - England's largest local authority - has recently announced they are considering closing its social housing waiting list, which shows the impact on local councils. Their waitlist of 23,000 people and a further 11,000 unassessed applications means the average applicant will wait over 20 years to be allocated a home.
  • 90% of lead tenants in new social housing lets in England are UK nationals, showing the perceived problem of social housing not being allocated to non-UK nationals is more prominent in certain authorities than others.


The consultation proposes that applicants who can demonstrate a connection to the UK for at least 10 years, and their local area for at least two years, will be placed higher on the list than others.

A solution, but to what ends?

The policy seems unlikely to significantly contribute to solving the social housing crisis, nor provide a solution for the majority of people on waiting lists.

At DevComms we help our clients understand the drivers behind political decisions. With this political lens in mind, this policy seems to provide a political solution with limited changes to real-life outcomes.

Whilst it doesn't present a significant change in outcome, it does effectively present a policy position that manages to simultaneously pre-empt both Reform and Labour attacks - which for one policy, is no mean feat - and sidesteps genuine planning policy, which has recently caused fractures in the party.

This policy also helps to avoid the Thatcher-shaped elephant in the room, in the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme. Abolishing the scheme would likely provide the most logical option, but as Conservative MPs increasingly battle over ideology (and potentially position themselves to replace Rishi Sunak) removing a Thatcher legacy was always unlikely to emerge as a frontrunner.


While the shortage of social housing appears to be identified as a cross-party significant issue ahead of the election, the solution presented by the Government appears to be more focused on improving electoral outcomes, rather than reducing social housing lists. Whilst, for the most part, Sunak has been focused on real-world solutions, is this a tell-tale sign that the Conservatives are shifting into election mode and that they are starting to acknowledge that some of society's problems may be the concern of a future Labour Government?

By Jake Gilbert

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