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Opinion: I would hate to be a politician in charge of housing

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Opinion: I would hate to be a politician in charge of housing

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government

Westminster Westminster

By Alistair McIntosh, chief executive, Housing Quality Network 

How long would a normal person last as a top politician? They couldn’t take the pressure for any more than 10 minutes.

Where did I pick up this pearl of wisdom? It was at an event put on by Ipsos MORI. You got to hear from Neil Kinnock, Paddy Ashdown, and Douglas Hurd. Back in the 1980s these guys were the stars of politics.

I saw Kinnock in his heyday. It was like watching Bruce Springsteen. His speeches were as long and energetic as a show from the Boss. The Tories just did not take him seriously. Hurd was at it again the other night when he said that pigs would fly before one of Neil’s ideas would work. But Kinnock has had the last laugh. In the dark days of the ‘80s Kinnock wanted us to spend our way out of trouble. He didn’t get his way. We voted for Thatcher to turn off the taps.

It’s a different world today, isn’t it? You can hear Tories calling for new train lines and airports. We printed money to keep things going after the credit crunch. So Kinnock was right in the long run but could never win the public over. Would anyone be brave and break the mould today?

The speakers at the event told us that rolling news gets in the way. MPs are terrified of saying anything interesting. If they dare to break that rule they find a snarling pack of newshounds at their door. And you can rely on the smartphone stasi on twitter and Facebook to kick off.

It is true that some can rise above the fray. Boris springs to mind. He is larger than life and folk love him. But what has he really done? He has put a few bikes and a new bus on the roads in London. Big wow.

Even Boris can’t build a lot of houses. It seems that no one can. We really hit the jackpot with rolling news on housing, don’t we? Poor old L&Q got it in the neck for trying to switch a dead dog track into a few homes. No one wants a new town anywhere near them. Maybe we should try building at night under the cover of darkness so no one sees what we are up to.

I would hate to be a politician in charge of housing. Who do you listen to? Young people want a step on the ladder. High house prices are all that a lot of older people have to fall back on.

Better off older folk buy homes to let out to young people. Boy do these young people hate their landlords. You cannot keep both sets of people happy. The Daily Mail will bat for the oldies. Twitter fans the fury of the young.

Some experts say that it is all about supply and demand. If you build a lot more homes then as night follows day the prices will fall. There is another point of view. It could be that building more homes won’t cut house prices as the speculators have the sharpest elbows and will snap them all up.

I have plenty of good ideas for sorting this out. But they won’t win many votes.

Stop giving housing benefit to private landlords. Use the cash to buy homes for councils and associations. Cut out the middle man.

Start to apply the principles of the bedroom tax to everyone. You can buy and sell any home you like tax free as long as you live in it and it is the right size for you. If you are selling or renting out surplus bedrooms then you should pay full income tax on the proceeds. In parts of the country your house makes more money a year than you do. Why do we tax people for doing a good thing like working but don’t ask for tax on speculation?

It’s easy for me to say all this. You might agree or you might not. So what? Emma Reynolds and Kris Hopkins get a much rougher ride. Think about that before you tear into them. You or I couldn’t do their job.

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