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Portillo attacks Tory government over owner-occupier 'freefall'

Former Conservative minister Michael Portillo has made an outspoken attack on his former party over its switch of housing policy emphasis from owner-occupation to private renting.

Speaking to the Building magazine, Portillo says he is “astonished” that the government was allowing a “freefall” in home ownership.

“One of the reasons that Thatcher promoted home ownership is that it promoted responsible citizens with a stake in society. But another reason was that those people would tend to be conservative. One of the great foundations of conservatism is threatened by the lack of home ownership” he tells Building.


The former defence secretary says last month's White Paper - seen by many in the industry as an anti-climax in terms of its regurgitation of existing short-term policies to address the housing shortage - was insufficient.

"I would build more council houses. It is the most effective and most direct intervention the government can make in the housing market. All these other interventions are indirect and are of limited effect. If there were more houses, demand would weaken, rents would fall, house prices would fall and more people would be able to afford houses" he says. 

"In due course I would sell the houses to the council house tenants. So know what your objective is and do whatever is required to get there. The objective is cheaper houses, more houses, more home ownership."

Portillo tells Building that he has been amazed for some years that his former party in government - under David Cameron, before Theresa May - had not addressed the need for more homes. 

“I am shocked that none of the young people I work with are home owners. They are all paying £800 a month for a room in a six-bedroom house sharing two bathrooms. These are middle class people with decent salaries, excellent job prospects and unless their parents die they have no hope of getting on the housing ladder [like] my own generation" he adds. 

“The astonishing thing for me is that Cameron and Osborne were in office for five years and did nothing about it? To me the extension of home ownership is fundamental. It is almost a defining issue to what conservatism is about.”

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  • Richard Copus

    Straight out of a Conservative guru's mouth - BUILD MORE COUNCIL HOUSES! Such a straightforward answer to a problem which has been made far more complicated than it is, mainly because of political posturing and dogma over the last 3 decades. But DON'T sell them off! Local authority housing should be there for those who cannot afford to get onto the housing ladder; also for those who aspire to getting onto the housing ladder who can then save to afford a mortgage, move out, and leave their council house vacant for another lower wage owner. Back to the future would also stabilise house values and make them more affordable. A win win situation for all.


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