Jacob Rees-Mogg tried to blame socialism for the housing crisis, and people aren’t having it

Jacob Rees-Mogg and the IEA logo
Nye Jones

On 23 July, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg launched the Institute for Economic Affairs’ (IEA) Richard Koch Breakthrough Prize. He then tweeted the details of the prize:

Is socialism the problem?

The IEA is a ‘free-market’ thinktank. It’s offering a prize for essays which:

answer how we can find a new, market-based policy to alleviate the UK’s housing shortage, and to rejuvenate our property-owning democracy.

Yet Rees-Mogg’s tweet implied that a free-market approach to housing would be a break from the current socialist approach. Thankfully, people on Twitter were quick to correct him:

https://twitter.com/paul_thind/status/1021377573832544258

A radical new approach?

As the BBC reported, the post-war Labour government “built more than a million homes, 80% of which were council houses”. This was an approach the subsequent Conservative government continued.

But Margaret Thatcher halted this commitment to building homes to fulfil a social need:

A study by Inside Housing found that 40.2% of council homes sold through Thatcher’s right-to-buy scheme are now rented out by private landlords. And her government’s 1988 Housing Act created the private rental market we see today, which is the number one cause of homelessness.

No wonder people are sceptical about what a free-market approach can achieve:

‘An asset not a right’

The idea of a “property-owning democracy” frames housing as an asset rather than a right:

This government’s decimation of social housing stock means that those who are priced out of the housing market are stuck in insecure private tenancies. Meanwhile, wealthy landlords flourish:

Housing first

This government has also presided over a shocking rise in rough sleeping, up 169% since 2010. Homeless deaths have doubled in the UK in the last five years while over 200,000 properties sit empty in England alone.

Therefore, it’s telling that Finland is the only EU country to reduce homelessness in the last decade. This has been done through rejecting a free-market approach in favour of a ‘Housing First’ model. Housing First re-frames housing as a right. The policy gives rough sleepers unconditional homes and provides support to maintain their tenancies.

The Finnish experience backs up the idea that Rees-Mogg and the IEA are barking up the wrong tree:

Ulterior motives?

The website Who Funds You? awarded the IEA the lowest possible mark for transparency in terms of funding. This has led people to be rightly sceptical of its motives:

And Rees-Mogg was among the Tory MPs who voted against forcing private landlords to make homes “fit for human habitation” while being registered as private landlords themselves, according to the International Business Times. So people also wondered what could be in it for Tory landlords:

Championing the free market as the solution to the housing crisis is like trying to put out a fire with gasoline.

Thankfully, people aren’t on board with the ludicrous approach taken by Rees-Mogg and the IEA.

Get Involved!

– Support housing campaigns like Focus E15London Renters UnionGreater Manchester Housing ActionACORNStreets KitchenBalfron Social ClubSave Our Homes LS26Ledbury Action Group, and Generation Rent.

Featured image via GuardianNews/YouTube and iealondon/YouTube

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