If you want to do something about actually solving a problem of expensive housing you have to do something to either increase supply or reduce demand. It is difficult to see how any of Cameron's pet policies can achieve this.
Consider first the policy of providing a subsidy to help first time buyers to get on the housing ladder. If you are saving to buy a home this must sound really helpful. But it can only have one impact. If it helps to get more people to be able to buy then it must increase the demand for buying houses and put the price up. It gives a bit of help with the deposit but increases the amount you have to pay and doesn't do a single thing to help new homes to be built. Forcing those who receive the subsidy to spend it on buying a new home doesn't help build those homes. It simply cuts down their choice of where to live if they want to take advantage of the subsidy. This scheme is therefore a complete waste of tax payers money. A strange approach for a government that keeps telling us it wants to cut the deficit.
Then we have the second headline policy which is to force housing associations to sell off the homes they own to their tenants. Incredibly Cameron told Corbyn that Housing Associations were a part of the public sector that had not been sufficiently reformed. He didn't appear to know that they are not part of the public sector at all but independent organisations. If the government seized land and property from either a private sector company or an individual Cameron would be the first to object. But apparently if you don't know that the organisation isn't part of the public sector then it is OK to seize their land and insult them when they object.
But leave aside the astonishing admission of ignorance and the dual standards for a minute and just consider the economics. Housing associations provide property at cheap and reasonable rents to a whole series of people. The vast majority of them aren't well off and many receive housing benefit. Because housing association rents are cheap they reduce the cost to the taxpayer of housing benefit to an enormous degree. When their best properties are sold off they will have less property to rent out. If they try to borrow money to build new properties they will find it hard to get loans because no building society will lend money long term against a property that will be sold off if it goes up in price and stay on the books if it goes down. So the supply of housing association rented property will go down. More people will be forced to rely on private rentals including some who will be paying more to rent properties that used to be owned by housing associations and are now being rented out at commercial values by the new private owners. The result is as inevitable as anything in economics can ever be. Housing associations will be weaker and the cost of housing benefit payments will go up. Once again he is wasting tax payers money.
The way that the government has chosen to give the tenants of housing association property a reward for buying their property is by forcing councils to sell off their most expensive properties and give the profit to the government. In Kensington and Chelsea this will result in 85% of council properties being sold. Up north in Harrogate it will have a smaller effect. It will only take away 40% of their supply of affordable homes. This can only have the impact of reducing the number of people who can access reasonably priced social housing. It therefore must also put up housing benefit costs.
In case anyone thinks the solution to this is to get rid of housing benefit it is worth pointing out one other obvious economic problem. If people don't get any help with rental costs then people who want to work in areas such as London are going to need higher incomes to pay private rents. Either there will be shortages of suitable labour supply in places like London or wages will have to go up. This policy therefore involves an increase in costs for business and an increase in income for landlords. Not necessarily what you would think a Conservative would propose.
If you really want to deal with a problem of supply and demand you have to increase supply or control demand. The best way to do this in housing is to increase supply. The only serious attempt Cameron has made to do this is by getting rid of as many planning controls as possible and saying that it should be easier to build on the green belt. This pretty much guarantees that more properties will be build in inappropriate places on green field sites and that local communities lose all effective controls over housing developments. The belief is that if you free up the private sector from bureaucracy then it will build us out of problems. It won't. The best way for a property developer to make money is to build 3 bedroom houses for those who already have equity and can afford to buy. The need is for one and two bedroom homes for an increasingly ageing population and for young people starting out. There are some very good private sector companies responding to this need. But not enough of them. Too many are taking advantage of weak planning laws and using up the available sites to build the wrong things and chase the easy money.
There is, of course, an readily available alternative that is known to work. One that was accepted by the vast majority of Conservatives for 30 years after the war. In the days when Conservatives believed in conserving things! If you want to increase supply then mobilise the power of local councils and the voluntary sector and let them borrow money in order to build affordable houses in the right places. Interest rates at the moment are low and there is a rock solid business model which sees these organisations borrowing money cheaply, building what their communities actually need and renting them out at reasonable rates to those who can't afford to buy. Obtaining the land on which to build isn't easy but at least these organisations are likely to have an interest in building in places that the local community approves of. Brownfield sites that are difficult to develop are much more likely to be invested in by a local council seeking to improve their town than by a developer wanting to cut build costs to an absolute minimum and sell to those who can most afford.
Everything about this solution ought to be attractive to anyone who is only looking at the economics. Letting councils build and own properties securely increases the supply of houses, cuts rents and housing benefits, helps regenerate difficult inner city sites and ensures the right kind of small affordable homes are built. There is only one possible objection to the policy.
It goes against the grain for a far right government to admit that in a mixed economy some things are actually much better done by local government and the voluntary sector than by the free market alone. That is how far to the right this country has drifted. Wiston Churchill used to boast about how many council houses his government had built. But common sense solutions to problems aren't what is wanted by this government. It is more important to the current style of Conservatives to stick to a blind belief in the perfection of market forces on every occasion than to let the voluntary sector and local government get on with solving one of our most urgent problems.
No wonder thousands of people asked Corbyn to raise the issue of housing with Cameron and were disappointed by his lame answers.