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Housing: Long-Term Plan

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:33 pm on 9th February 2016.

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Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government) 4:33 pm, 9th February 2016

My hon. Friend makes a very good point, particularly on the excellent Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015. He put a great deal of passion and determination into that. He is delivering something that the Housing and Planning Bill builds on and underpins to ensure a real step-change. It will help not just by providing people with more opportunities to own their own home, but by providing an opportunity for the reinvigoration of small and medium-size local builders that we all want to see. A few weeks’ ago, we announced an expansion of direct commissioning, which will go even further to deliver that.

It would be simply old-fashioned political dogma to insist that Governments should only intervene in the market to support renters, when most people want to buy. To persist with an outdated mind-set risks creating a generation of young people exiled from home ownership; young people worse off than their parents, compelled to leave communities they love and grew up in, and forced to decline good job opportunities all because local housing is too expensive. That is bad for our economy and bad for society. Starter homes have the potential to transform the lives of young people. Just think about it: a first–time buyer able to get at least a 20% discount from a new home with just a 5% deposit. That really does change the accessibility to affordable housing for thousands more people. Starter homes will help young people and ensure that more homes are built.

We must not fall for the lazy assumption that there is a contradiction between supporting the dreams of homebuyers and ensuring that more affordable homes are built. Nowhere is this lazy thinking clearer than in the opposition to our extension of right to buy for housing association tenants. In the previous Parliament, we improved dramatically the right to buy for council tenants. Some 47,000 tenants seized the opportunity, with more than 80% of those sales under the reinvigorated scheme, and yet 1.3 million social tenants in housing association properties continued to receive little or no assistance and continued to be trapped out of ownership. That cannot be right. We promised the electorate that we would end this unfairness and we have. Housing associations have also recognised this inequity. They have signed an historic agreement to end it, and I congratulate them on coming forward with that offer. They are giving tenants what they want: an option to buy their home and a ladder to real opportunity. I am delighted that we have five pilots already under way across the country. Every property sold will lead to at least one extra property being built.