Speculation was rife over the weekend that the government would today announce major changes to housing policy - possibly shifting the emphasis from David Cameron’s affection for home ownership to accepting substantial growth in the private rental sector.
Media commentators known to have been briefed by Conservative party officials say that today’s debate involving Communities and Local Government at the Tory conference may signal a shift in official policy.
Some newspapers suggested that housing minister Gavin Barwell may announce a ‘rent to buy’ policy - not unlike that suggested by the Liberal Democrats ahead of last year’s general election - and a renewed committment to Build To Rent, where institutional investors are encouraged to fund the building and then management of block of flats to let.
Last week the government confirmed the end of the controversial Help To Buy mortgage scheme, a central part of the Cameron government’s pro-ownership platform.
Conservative MP James Cartlidge - chair of the Commons all-party housing and planning group and considered an influential figure on Tory policy making - wrote in The Guardian at the weekend that renting should be a larger part of the housing debate.
Remarking on Cameron’s pro-ownership emphasis, Cartlidge wrote: “I don’t think in doing that we recognise enough publicly that the extent of the housing crisis is not just about home ownership ... It’s about a lack of palatable options for huge numbers of people.
“There are people who cannot buy or don’t want to buy, or it’s not realistic for a long time, and yet they’re still in the housing crisis. This crisis is the overall expense of all options, and therefore a response needs to have a multiplicity of tenures, and cater for those people in different circumstances.”