Since 2010, more than half a million people have been helped into home ownership through Government-backed schemes, including Help to Buy and the right to buy. The recent independent evaluation of the Help to Buy equity loan scheme found that 63% of first-time buyers using it were under 35.
While the lifting of the housing revenue account cap is welcome and will deliver more council-built homes, which will be used to meet the long-standing demand for council housing across the country, we need more private homes. What more can the Government do to help the delivery of that private housing, which will bring prices down and increase the availability for young people?
My hon. Friend has made an important point about the housing revenue account cap and our desire to see more council homes built, but he is right to say that we also want to see a general increase in housing supply. Last year’s figures show that more than 222,000 homes were delivered, the highest number for a decade. As my hon. Friend says, there is more to do, but I should emphasise to him that the number of first-time buyers is at an 11-year high.
The Government are failing to meet the housing needs of young people in the south lakes, while ignoring the simple fact that thousands of local houses are sitting empty as second homes. Will the Secretary of State agree to change planning and tax regulations, so that we can limit second home ownership and give our young people the chance of a place to call their own?
The hon. Gentleman has highlighted the broader issue of the need to increase supply. We have made reforms to ensure that there is clarity in the planning process, and through the schemes that I have mentioned. However, if the hon. Gentleman’s challenge is that there is more to do, yes, there is, and that is why we are determined to see that increase in supply. I think that is the best way to address the issues that he has highlighted in relation to his own constituency and others across the country.
I do agree, and I am well aware of the housing opportunities that are being taken up in and around my hon. Friend’s constituency and the work that is going on there. He has made a powerful point. If we ensure that all types and tenures of housing are being developed, that housing will be delivered more quickly, and that is where the focus lies.
The average full-time salary among my constituents is above national norms at £37,500, but that is still way off the house price that the Government class as affordable, at £450,000, and it is half the cost of the average sale achieved in W5 in the first quarter of the year, which was £905,348. One flat even changed hands for £3.5 million. What are the Government doing to relieve the pressures on young people specifically in London, where salaries and speculation are forcing out everyone but the children of the super-rich?
About £9 billion is being spent on the affordable homes programme, and half of that is going to London. I hope that the hon. Lady will join me in encouraging the Mayor of London to focus on the delivery of housing of all types for all people, and to ensure that there is that bright prospect in London as well as the rest of the country.
It is interesting that the right hon. Gentleman should make that point. He may recall saying in the past that falling home ownership was not “such a bad thing”. I should have thought that he would support the increase in delivery that I have mentioned, and, indeed, the fact that the number of first-time buyers is at an 11-year high.
Is not the truth that the Government have been failing young people on housing for nine years? One in five of those on the Help to Buy scheme are not even first-time buyers, the average age of those on the right to buy scheme is over 50, and not a single one of the new starter homes that were pledged in 2014 has yet been built. Where is the new hope, and where are the new housing plans, from the wannabe Tory leaders?
Is it not clear, after nine years of Conservative government, eight Housing Ministers and four Secretaries of State, that the Conservatives still have no plan to fix the housing crisis, and is it not clear that the only hope for young people with regular incomes is a Labour Government with radical plans for discounted First Buy homes, first dibs for local people on new homes, and a programme for the building of a million new affordable homes both to rent and to buy?
I wondered, given the right hon. Gentleman’s peroration, whether he was building up to Christmas, but I can say to him that a Labour Government are absolutely not that gift, because if we look at Labour’s record in office we see house building fall to levels not seen since the 1920s. I would underline to him the work this Government have done: last year there were 222,000 new dwellings; only in one year in the last 31 have we seen a higher number. So it is a bit rich of the right hon. Gentleman to make those points when, for example, Labour has opposed and voted against our stamp duty cut for first time buyers, which is absolutely about making the difference for young buyers. The Labour party opposed that measure, which underlines that it is the Conservative party that has the ideas, the innovation and the energy, whereas the Labour party, frankly, offers none of that at all.