Regions, Transport and DEFRA

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:19 pm on 19th November 2002.

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Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon 8:19 pm, 19th November 2002

I am grateful for that intervention. There is an issue of supply, but other factors are at work. In South Hams in my constituency, second homes are a real contributor to the upsurge in house prices. Twelve per cent. of homes in South Hams are second homes. I agree with the provision in the Queen's Speech that the 50 per cent. council tax discount should be removed, and I very much hope and expect that South Hams council will surge to imposing a 100 per cent. council tax on such homes. That will not provide more houses, but I think that it will raise #1 million for the council to spend—on housing need, perhaps.

More and more people now work in London and live, not in the suburbs or even in the counties immediately around London, but well out in other parts of the country. With their London salaries, they are inflating house prices all over the country.

I call upon the Government to do three things in the next 12 months and I hope that these measures will be in the local government Bill, when we finally see it. First, they should recognise that the problem of affordable housing to buy is not just a London or a south-east issue; it is an issue in many rural parts of the country, especially the south-west. Challenge funding of #200 million, modest amount though that is, certainly needs to be open to other parts of the country, not just the south-east.

Secondly, I call upon the Government to undergo a paradigm shift—which is not as painful as it sounds. Whenever anyone raises the subject of affordable housing with this Government, they think of social housing to rent. It should be recognised that the current crisis is in affordable housing to buy. That is the Xnow" issue. The Government must not fight the last war, and we need new ideas to help us to get to grips with that problem.

My third point—this is my contribution to the debate—is that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister needs to do some blue-skies thinking to create a new form of legal tenure that will help us to tackle the problem. My suggestion is that we should create a new form, which I would call Xlocalhold", whereby a developer who builds a housing estate in any area with high housing prices and relatively low wages has to ensure that one tenth of the properties are available for local people who have been resident for three years to purchase. Those people would own the house outright, but they would be able to sell only to someone else who has been resident in the district for three years, or to someone who moves from a similar type of property. There should be tax incentives for developers to make such provision, and even more incentives if they provide more than the allotted 10 per cent. The constraint on the ability to purchase a house of that type should ensure that the affordability element is passed on to future purchasers. One problem with all the existing schemes is that the affordability element is not available to purchasers down the line.

I want the Government to recognise that there is a crisis in affordable housing to buy. They should be engaging in blue-skies thinking and coming up with workable solutions to solve that problem, and I am disappointed that the Queen's Speech remains strangely silent on the issue.