Margaret Hodge, MP (barking) and Industry Minister, has today proposed that native Britons should be given preference over Johnny Foreigner in the allocation of social housing. She proposed that applicants would be given points depending on how long they have contributed to the UK economy.
Now, I have been mulling over some thoughts for a blog for a few days and when I heard this I instantly recognized where this was heading.
We have a housing crisis in the UK. It's not only that there aren't enough houses but that they are in the wrong place. Demand pushes up prices in some areas while, in Northern towns, perfectly good homes are demolished or stay empty. What we have is failure to match sellers with buyers.
Computers are good at doing this sort of thing and it just happens there is a perfectly good £6.3m computer system sitting idle at the Department of Health.
What I, and the barking MP, are proposing is a Modernisation of the Moving House process (MMH). Instead of the current Old Boys Network, which favors people with money, jobs or rich parents, home providers will be required to submit a home information pack (HIP) to HTAS (Homes Transfer Allocation System). Prospective home seekers would apply online to the secure HTAS computer system and submit details of age, race, sexual preference, religion, social class, parents social class, schools attended, schools parents attended, previous home ownership and income. Points will be allocated on a series of short essays on a range of everyday topics, such as the care of garden water features and how to deal with the situation of a neighbour who wishes to replace his period sash windows with uPVC.
Applications will be graded by a panel of celebrity TV house makeover program presenters and applicants will be allocated properties in order of merit so that, for example, a high scoring home seeker will be allocated a house in leafy Surrey and a lower scoring applicant would be allocated a high-rise council flat in Grimethorpe or indeed become homeless. Anyone becoming homeless will be encouraged to use the services of Shelter, until the next round of applications. All home relocations would take place on a specified single day each year.
It is appreciated that many applicants may have a preference regarding the location of their homes but this is considered socially divisive and HTAS will work with stakeholders to encourage a culture change in location prejudice.
It is self evident that HTAS will be an improvement on the current flawed system and that it should be rolled out without delay. I expect it to be whole-heartedly supported by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and any failings in the system can therefore be blamed on them.