Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:17 pm on 23rd October 2017.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. It is a privilege to follow James Cartlidge, who speaks so knowledgably about the subject, and it is a pleasure also that the debate has been introduced by Paul Scully.
As a proud janner, I am pleased that the debate has been called by someone from Plymouth. Jamie Pogson is a Plympton resident, and it is good to see that angry janners who want to change the world can get out and, as he describes it in the Plymouth Herald, “have a rant” one morning and potentially change our housing system.
It is worth looking at the housing crisis, not only nationwide but in the far south-west and in Plymouth in particular. The crisis is such that in Plymouth the number of people living in the private rented sector is double the national average—32% compared with roughly 16% nationally. Some 22,000 people own their own home in the constituency I represent—just next door to where Mr Pogson lives—and that is 15% lower than the national average, and nearly 20% lower than the south-west average. I can understand why, therefore, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, South West Devon and Plymouth, Moor View are the top three constituencies for signatures to the petition. A real housing crisis is being felt in the far south-west, in an area where wages are low.
The aspiration that I think all hon. Members share—to encourage home ownership, to encourage people to invest wisely in their future and to provide a base for their family—can be acutely felt in communities such as the one I represent. With the current housing crisis, I think there is an agreed position that we need more affordable homes to buy, that we need affordable homes to rent, and that we need to create more of a market of part buy part let, which is especially important in helping people on low incomes to secure a stake in a property. They can build up that stake over time and use it as collateral to move further up the housing ladder, which is absolutely essential.
In some of the media coverage that surrounds this debate, Mr Pogson himself has picked up the points made by the previous speakers in relation to how the credit reference agencies work. Will the Minister look at whether the Treasury could provide greater encouragement to credit reference agencies and financial institutions to look at innovative solutions that could be added to the mix? The long-term benefits of people being able to take their rental record into account in purchasing a property are good not only for the economy and those individuals, but for the industry. A gentle nudge to encourage that sector could be looked at in particular.
In the Plymouth Herald article about Mr Pogson’s petition reaching 100,000 signatures after only three days, he spoke about his view of the system, and it might be worth reflecting on that. He said:
“Unless you’re getting handouts, wealthy or in receipt of inheritance it’s almost impossible”— to buy a home—
“I want to really make a stand with this. The system is beyond a joke.”
It is certainly true that there have been improvements in the system. Initiatives from this Government, the coalition Government and the Labour Government have assisted at the edges, but there is still much more to do.
I would like to think that an angry janner getting out of bed one day and wanting to change the world could produce a situation where thousands of people who are renting at the moment might be able to buy a house—all because of Jamie Pogson tabling that petition.
This debate shows the value of this House listening to those who sign petitions. I have just tabled a petition on saving amphibious warships that has reached 3,000 signatures after only a few days. Those are 3,000 signatures on an issue that affects the three Plymouth constituencies, and that is a sign of just how powerfully felt such issues are, not only in Plymouth but across the country.