Need to Know | 24th February 2015

It's taken us 20 years to build 500,000 council homes – but the Greens are doing to do it in a year or two?

If you haven’t seen Natalie Bennett’s car-crash interview on LBC this morning, don’t miss out. […]

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If you haven’t seen Natalie Bennett’s car-crash interview on LBC this morning, don’t miss out.

It all started when Nick Ferrari, the LBC presenter, asked Natalie Bennett about the Green Party’s plans to build 500,000 new council houses.

We’ve copied the full interview transcript below. But here’s the key stat to keep in mind: it’s taken us nearly 20 years to build 500,000 council homes. It’s hard to see how the Greens are going to suddenly build another half a million in a couple of years.

That twenty-year figure comes from adding local council and housing association figures together. If we just focus on local council houses, we have an even less encouraging backdrop for the Greens’ big policy.

The Greens have had a great six months in the polls.

And a great year, as this graph of the polls since the last election shows.

But on days like these you wonder whether…

Here’s the Bennett interview transcript in full:

Nick Ferrari (LBC): The third key theme is ‘The Greens will ensure everyone has a secure, affordable place to live. How would that be brought about?

Natalie Bennett: A couple of things that we want to focus on. In terms of council housing, we want to build 500,000 new social rent homes.

Nick: Good lord, where would you get the money from for that?

Natalie: Well, what we want to do is fund that particularly by removing tax relief on mortgage interests for private landlords. We have a situation where…

Nick: How much would that bring in?

Natalie: Private landlords at the moment are basically running away with the situation of hugely rising rents while collecting huge amounts of housing benefit.

Nick: How much would that be worth, the mortgage relief for private landlords?

Natalie: “Erm… well… it’s… that’s part of the whole costing.”

Nick: Yes, but how much would that bring? The cost of 500,000 homes, let’s start with that. How much would that be?

Natalie: “Right, well, that’s, erm… you’ve got a total cost… erm… that we’re… that will be spelt out in our manifesto.

Nick: So you don’t know?

Natalie: No, well, err.

Nick: You don’t, ok. So you don’t know how much those homes are going to cost, but the way it’s going to be funded is mortgage relief from private landlords. How much is that worth?

Natalie: Right, well what we’re looking at with the figures here. Erm, what we need to do is actually… uh……… we’re looking at a total spend of £2.7… billion.

Nick: 500,000 homes, £2.7billion? What are they made of, plywood?

Natalie: Erm, basically what we’re talking about is 500,000 new homes and basically each one pound spent on this brings back £2.40…

Nick: Yes, but what is the total cost of 500,000 homes?

Natalie: [Long, long pause] Erm… it’s a cost of £60,000 per home.

Nick: £60,000 per home?

Natalie: Because what we’re talking about is, is the opportunity for…

Nick: That can’t include the land?

Natalie: Well, what we’re talking about is, what we want to see is the possibility of, um, of homes being built…

Nick: That’s not much more than a large conservatory, £60,000. So where’s the land, how are you going to pay for the land?

Natalie: [Even longer pause] Right, well, what we’re, what we’re looking at doing is, is… is basically *cough, cough, cough*

Nick: Are you alright?

Natalie: Yes, sorry, as you can probably hear, I have got a huge cold.

Nick: I’m terribly sorry to hear that.

Natalie: So, so what we need to do is, is social rental homes.

Nick: Right. Still don’t see how you’re going to get this… some at £60,000… you don’t actually know how much this is going to cost, do you?

Natalie: Uh, yes, we’ve got a fully-costed programme which we’ll be releasing, which will be released…

Nick: Shouldn’t you be aware of what that cost will be now?

Natalie: Uh, right, yes. So what we’re talking about is £6billion per year. So the current budget is £1.5billion a year.

Nick: £6billion? That will be attained by taking mortgage relief from private landlords? That’s £6billion-worth is it?

Natalie: And we’re also looking at investing… [long pause]. Yes, well, it’s… we’ve got the fully costed figures here.

Nick: You’ve said that on a couple of occasions. How much does mortgage relief from private landlords bring in then?

Natalie: [Long pause] *cough, cough* Basically, we’re talking about an overall saving of £4.5billion.

Nick: What? Mortgage relief is worth £4.5billion a year?

Natalie: And this is other saving as well, from private landlords as well, we’re looking at housing benefit reforms and what we also want to do is bring in caps on private tenants.

Nick: Yes, do you think you could have perhaps have ginned up on this a bit more Natalie Bennett?

Natalie: *cough, cough* Uh, I think that we’re talking about a whole range of…

Nick: No, you personally, do you think you might have ginned up a little, might you have read into this a little more in hindsight?

Natalie: What we’re talking about is a whole range of issues this morning, ranging from the economy, the NHS.

Nick: Yes, I’ve only time for two unfortunately. I wish I had more time.