More on the budget in a few days. For now, one brief bit of thinking on an astonishing ommission - the complete lack of a mention for affordable housing in 2010's Budget. Who needs a strategy for social housing when you can steal a policy on owner-occupying from the Tories, eh?
BUDGET IGNORES AFFORDABLE HOUSING
One of the few major, eye-catching changes in Labour's 2010 Budget was a housing measure. Unfortunately for the almost 5 million people on social housing waiting lists throughout the country, the measure had nothing to do with housing that those most in need can afford.
In providing a holiday on stamp duty for homes under £250,000, Alistair Darling is following the same tired formula of attempting to stimulate the economy through subsidies to owner-occupiers, rather than investment in homes for the millions of people who are in very serious housing need. A subsidy of only a couple of thousand pounds will not make housing ownership accessible to all, and will cost £550 million over two years.
At the same time as this giveaway, the Government is refusing to protect social housing investment from the swingeing cuts which are guaranteed to hit unprotected government departments later in the year. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that non ringfenced departments will suffer cuts of 17.98%. This would mean a drastic reduction in an already inadequate building programme. In 2007, Gordon Brown pledged to build 1 million units of social housing by 2020 - however, according to the National House Builder's Federation only 162,000 of these will have been built by 2011, and if the projected cuts take effect, the remaining 838,000 will not be built until 2029!
The direct effect of this complete neglect of social housing (momentarily ignoring the indirect effects on health, economic equality and prosperity) will be a further 1.25 million people joining the housing waiting lists, and the loss of 278,000 jobs and apprenticeships in the construction industry.
Labour had a chance, with this final Budget, to set out a route back to sane levels of social housing in this country. They have failed this test in epic fashion, and look set to condemn millions to continuing housing misery.
Matt Sellwood is the Green Party's national housing spokesperson, and the Parliamentary Candidate for Hackney North & Stoke Newington.