Let’s take all of these myths in turn. Britain’s social housing stock remains large, accounting for 18pc of all homes. True, this is down sharply from 32pc in 1981, with around 1.8m homes privatised under the Right to Buy policy. But the experience of other European countries shows that the Government doesn’t need to build and own homes itself to make sure that the needy have accommodation – it is far better to allow the private sector to build enough low-cost lodgings by getting the planning rules right, and for the Government to focus on directly helping those that require assistance. If there is a plentiful supply of property, and thus lower rents, the cost to the taxpayer need not escalate uncontrollably, as it has done in the UK.
ust 17pc of homes in Francois Hollande’s socialist France are social housing, less than in the UK. In Germany, it accounts for just 5pc of homes. Ditto in Italy. In Belgium, it’s 7pc; in Ireland, 8pc; and in Finland, 16pc. Even Sweden, the place where British Leftists used to go on pilgrimage before they pioneered for-profit free schools, only relies on social housing for 17pc of homes, also less than us. Almost wherever one looks in Europe – and the source for these figures is the Dutch ministry of the interior’s housing statistics in the European Union 2010 – one finds that social housing is much less important than it is in the UK.
Only three European economies rely more on social housing than we do: the Netherlands, where it accounts for 32pc of all homes, Austria at 23pc and Denmark at 19pc.
Most interesting, I hadn’t realised all of that.