Lib Dem housing plan is a nice idea – it’s a shame it probably won’t happen

Nick Clegg is on a mission to make the dream of home ownership more attainable for Londoners, with his party’s ‘rent-to-own’ housing scheme. The premise is simple enough; move into your new place, no deposit needed, and simply pay rent at the market rate. Clegg says that this has been in the cards for years, but Conservatives have been reluctant to push it forward. That’s all about to change now, as Boris Johnson has pledged upwards of £40 million in financing for the project, which is being ran by social enterprise Gentoo.

Gentoo have piloted the ‘rent-to-own’ concept in Sunderland, where tenants pay £700 to £800 per month on these homes. Bringing the scheme to the South will mean pushing that rent up to £1,200, possibly even more in London, meaning that would-be home-owners on the very poor end of the spectrum won’t have much to gain. However,it will still help plenty of people – and Clegg never claimed that this was social housing.

Here’s the thing though. The Lib Dems remain foggy on some fundamental details, like how much this initiative is expected to cost, and how they plan to subsidise it. Apparently, this is all just a teaser, and an actual prospectus will be published if the party is still in power after the General Election. Sadly, I’m not sure the thousands of Britons eager to get a foothold on the property ladder are likely to throw their lot in with the Lib Dems on the basis of what amounts to a wishy washy striptease.

A more cynical person might suggest that this is a copy-and-paste-and-change-just-enough-to-avoid-plagiarism job, a reworked version of the Conservative party’s approach to social housing which sits slightly more comfortably with the Lib Dem ethos. But I couldn’t possibly comment.

George Spencer is CEO at Rentify.