It’s not what you earn, it’s what you own
The Progressive Conservatism Project’s report, Recapitalising the Poor, made the case for a welfare system underpinned by a concern for ownership. The report, launched by Tory welfare bigwig David Freud and with a foreword by David Cameron, urges Government to help the working poor to acquire assets so that they can become more independent and more resilient. Now, Westminster Council has offered a timely reminded that we needn’t always wait for central government to pick up the baton of radical policy – local governments can make a big difference too.
Under a new scheme, people who earn £30,000 a year or under (and couples whose combined incomes are no more than £40,000) can apply for subsidized rent in one of London’s most sought after neighborhoods. Their rent will be reduced on the condition that they save for a deposit in order to propel themselves onto the property ladder – this is exactly the kind of scheme we have argued for; a hand-up certainly but not a handout.
Conservative Governments have a history of taking policy on ownership from pioneering Local Authorities. The formidable Horace Cutler, who was leader of the Greater London Council between 1977 and 1981, implemented a scheme, which evolved to become Thatcher’s highly successful Right-to-Buy policy. His idea, trailed in London, became a national phenomenon that transformed thousands of tenants into property owners.
Cameron’s team should watch Westminster’s approach carefully – with a view to promoting it more widely. Today’s young people were brought up in a Britain where home-ownership was considered an accessible, and expected, facet of the ‘good life’. Now, in an era of austerity, tight credit and still-sky-high property prices, we feel disenfranchised from that aspiration. My generation will look kindly on a leader who recognises the injustice of the current property market and who takes steps to help us to achieve something our parents took for granted.