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Why the government's independent review into building social homes is nothing of the sort

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Why the government's independent review into building social homes is nothing of the sort

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government

Why the government's independent review into building social homes is nothing of the sort Why the government's independent review into building social homes is nothing of the sort

The government has announced an "independent" review into how more social homes can be built. But how independent is it?

Putting aside questions over what social homes actually are under the current government, the review will be led by Natalie Elphicke, chair of Million Homes, Million Lives, and the aptly named Keith House, leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, both well-known to the housing sector but not exactly recognised as non-partisan players.

Natalie Elphicke is the wife of Charlie Elphicke, the Conservative MP for Dover. A respected lawyer with expertise on housing finance, she has previous with the social housing sector after a series of run-ins at a number of conferences when she published a controversial report with the rightwing think-tank Policy Exchange back in 2010.

Her report claimed that housing associations could raise £30 billion a year – and build 100,000 new homes – by raising money directly from pension funds, saving the taxpayer £5bn by relieving government of the need to invest in social housing.

Undeterred by the howls of derision, she has now teamed up with Calum Mercer, the former finance director of Circle Housing Group, to establish a "new type of housing association" with the aim of putting the Policy Exchange report into practice and overhauling the financing of social and affordable housing within 10 years.

Keith House, meanwhile, is the Liberal Democrat leader of Eastleigh council with a strong track record on housing but who is equally recognised for sitting on as many committees as he possibly can.

A scathing piece on the Conservative Home website questioned whether councillor House had the right attitude towards civic duty effectively accusing him of lining his pockets at the public's expense.

The website alleged: "Council leader cllr Keith House claims allowances and expenses of £28,231, plus another £25,000 from Hampshire Council. He is "deputy chair" of the Local Government Association's environment and housing board for which he gets another £7,778. He is also a board member of the Homes and Communities Agency, for which he gets another £13,000 a year. Then his partner cllr Louise Bloom, whom cllr House has appointed as a cabinet member, collects another £14,018.66. So that comes to £88,027."

Let's hope the pair of them put personal interests to one side when carrying out their independent review and let's not write it off until we see what the conclusions are. But make no mistake, it's being carried out by people loyal to the coalition view of the world and I wouldn't hold your breath for a return to old-style social housing. Those days are long gone.

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