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Have Tory Donors 'Captured' Government Housing Policy? New Data Says Maybe Yes

Boris Johnson at the Conservative party conference this year.

One in every five pounds donated to the Conservative party between 2010 and 2020 came from companies and individuals with a substantial interest in the housing market, according to new data from Transparency International UK.

The watchdog said there was “a worrying dependence of the party of government on a small number of wealthy financial backers with relationships to substantial property interests” and drew attention to the risk of “policy capture” by the housebuilding sector.

The report on the influence of the residential property sector contrasts with growing tensions among commercial property interests about their lack of political influence.

Whilst commercial landlords will endure a moratorium on tenant evictions for nonpayment of rent until 25 March 2022, residential landlords have been free to enforce evictions since 1 June 2021. The stay on possession proceedings expired on 20 September 2020 and residential landlords are now able to progress their possession claim through the courts. 

The report, House of Cards, examines the factors informing the UK’s housing policy, and concludes that the scale of housing industry donations to the ruling party may deter the government from taking bold decisions necessary to tackle Britain’s growing housing crisis.

The research shows that most property donations go to the Conservative party and that they form a substantial part of the party's income.

Between January 2010 and March 2020, the Conservative party received 80% of political donations made by individuals and companies related to substantial property interests (worth £60.8M).

Property related contributions accounted for more than a fifth of the Conservative party’s reportable donations during this period. No other political party had a ratio of reportable donations from this industry this high, Transparency International UK said.

The organisation said more work needs to be done to prevent “policy capture” by the housing industry at the expense of tenants and the wider public interest.

“Breaking this dependence is key to removing the risk of undue influence and freeing government to explore bolder solutions to address the housing crisis,” Transparency International UK Policy Director Duncan Hames said.