But housing takes a long time to build and so the downside of changes can take a long time to really kick in. All too many people are now finding out what is not to like about all those council homes having been sold off without replacements. It means that they are forced onto the tender mercies of the private landlord and of prices fixed in a highly competitive market where demand tends to exceed supply.
The vast majority of private landlords are, of course, perfectly reasonable people trying to create a bit of security for themselves in old age by renting out a couple of properties they acquired via a marriage or a relatively modest inheritance. They do their repairs on time, respect their tenant's rights, pay back any deposits promptly when someone leaves without damaging the property and charge a fair market price. Some are not.
It is, however, those market prices which are the real issue. When you have a shortage of supply and a surplus of demand prices only go in one direction. Upward. Rental costs have soared to the point where it is now extraordinarily difficult for anyone searching for a flat in London to be able to afford the rent on a typical salary. Even with the extra income available in London. Flats are becoming smaller and smaller. Agencies are charging large up-front fees just for finding you somewhere very basic. You then have six months security before the worst agencies are choosing to force you out so that they can get a second up-front fee.
This makes it hard enough for a young single person to get themselves a place to rent in many parts of the country. If you come with any 'difficulties' then it is virtually impossible. Difficulties like a child. Or a disability. Or a history of mental illness. The free market does what it does best. It allocates resources to the highest bidder with the most secure finances and the lowest risks. The rest can go hang unless a good profit can be made out of renting out hell holes that would make people in the third world shudder and think twice.
When the state steps in and tries to help by providing housing benefit the situation doesn't improve much. There is still a problem of an imbalance of supply and demand. Government cash going into housing benefits simply helps to drive up the price on the open market of private rental properties. Before long huge quantities of public money go out on housing benefit and straight into the pockets of rather well off landlords without helping the poor to live in decent conditions or with any long term security.
The Conservatives, in their caring way, are aiming to improve this situation. They are looking to remove as much of housing benefit as they can so that the market isn't distorted by those undeserving poor people being able to afford to pay their rent. As the cuts bite and these people are forced to move further away from their work and into smaller and more insecure hovels I am sure they will appreciate living in a home owning democracy.
Clearly any long term solution has to start with increasing supply. But that supply needs to be of properties that people can either afford to buy or to rent. I live in one of the cheaper areas of the country. It is still possible to find a small starter home for £200,000. Anyone wishing to buy it will need a deposit of £20,000 and at a reasonable multiple of three times their salary will need to earn £60,000 a year. There are very few local jobs that pay that. The number of people under the age of 30 that earn that kind of amount is even lower. Go to London or Bath or Sussex and the cost of buying goes up. So do the salaries of course but not by the same multiple. For most young people the idea of making a home purchase without assistance from parents or a legacy has become literally unthinkable. It is simply no longer possible for the vast majority of people to buy a home by saving money out of what they earn.
In this situation it is not enough for the Conservative Party to keep repeating the mantra that the free market will help us sort it all out. Allowing building developers to ride roughshod over planning laws that have saved our countryside for almost a century is certainly not the way. Developers have a duty to their shareholders. They need to build what will make the biggest profits most rapidly. When they get hold of a piece of land that they can put houses on they usually prefer to construct three and four bedroom houses that they can sell easily to people who have an existing home to sell or have help from parents. There is little incentive to build large numbers of smaller starter homes to sell to people who will struggle to get mortgages. In my area 65% of houses are larger than 3 bedrooms whereas 66% of people looking to buy want less than 2 bedrooms. The bulk of those who can't afford to buy need one bedroom rented property. Yet almost all of the huge number of building developments that are underway are constructing even more three bedroom homes. The imbalance is even worse in London where there are large numbers of non doms eager to invest in high end properties and plenty of developers who would prefer to part them with their dubiously sourced money than struggle to sell lots of cheaper homes to people who struggle to obtain a mortgage.
When the free market fails, as it did so spectacularly in the 2008 banking crisis, there is only one way out. The government needs to step in. Getting the government to construct the homes is the obvious solution. If it is felt that central government might be a bit too remote to undertake this then we need to adopt an alternative strategy. Something wildly imaginative and off the wall. I don't know, perhaps we could provide incentives for the local councils or the voluntary sector to do it. We could go equally crazy in what we call this essential contribution to securely solving the housing problem.
Council houses and housing associations would be my choice. I wonder if Mr Cameron has thought of that?