British House Building Industry

Part of Uk Shared Prosperity Fund – in the House of Commons at 4:04 pm on 5th September 2019.

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Photo of Richard Bacon Richard Bacon Conservative, South Norfolk 4:04 pm, 5th September 2019

That is very helpful, Madam Deputy Speaker.

May I start by congratulating Siobhain McDonagh very sincerely? I realised how strange times are in this particular area of housing debate when I attended a lunch at the Institute of Economic Affairs, where the hon. Lady was the guest speaker. I realised that it is the case not so much that there is political cross-dressing going, but that many of us are searching for solutions outside the traditional parameters; and that is because, as the title of the White Paper from January 2017 said, we have a broken housing market. We might have some differences about the causes of the situation she accurately describes, and about the best prescriptions for solving it, but it is absolutely clear that supply does not rise to meet demand. She used the word “market” in her last couple of sentences, which rather implies that we have a market for housing, but we have no such thing; we have a tightly controlled oligopoly, and actually supply does not rise to meet demand, because most suppliers do not wish to damage their own profit margins by oversupplying the market so that prices fall. We would not expect that in any other area of business and we should not expect it in housing.

Fundamentally, we need to change the model. If we have a broken housing market, we need to create a different ecosystem, and one of the fundamental things we need to do is increase choice for consumers. It is by far the single biggest thing people spend money on —whether renting or buying, it is the thing that people spend most of their monthly income on—but it is the thing over which they have the least choice. In any ecosystem in which the consumer had any say, it would be the thing over which they had the most choice.

As well as increasing choice, we have to lower barriers to entry, and that is where I want to bring in my favourite subject, mentioned by my hon. Friend Gareth Johnson, namely self-build and custom house building.