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Housing: Long-Term Plan

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:06 pm on 9th February 2016.

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Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Leader of the Liberal Democrats 4:06 pm, 9th February 2016

It rather plays into the pattern over the last nine months—since the coalition Government ended and the Conservatives came into power alone—of short-termism and a lack of a long-term thinking. The long-term plan appeared to leave office with my right hon. Friend. Instead, we see short-termism over green energy cuts, for example, and over providing the certainty that businesses of any kind need to plan. That includes housing associations, which are charities but which have, in many ways, the acumen and the outlook of the private sector. If we reduce their income, their certainty and their confidence in their balance sheets, they will build less and provide fewer services. Society as a whole will end up picking up the cost for vulnerable people whom we cannot support, who become more costly to society in later life.

Other reforms are needed to boost supply on the scale that is required. That cannot be left to the social housing market or to the starter homes initiative. That is why we are calling for at least 10 new garden cities in areas where there is local support to create thousands of new homes in thriving and sustainable communities with effective transport links and schools, providing hundreds of jobs in the process. In addition, we are calling for many more garden villages—not building in people’s back yards, but building beyond people’s horizons, with consent, and giving a sense that there is a long-term answer to the crisis. The Government must create the conditions for those garden cities to work, by empowering councils to buy land more cheaply and providing incentives to make the plan a success.