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Local Infrastructure (East Midlands)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:33 am on 20th March 2018.

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Photo of Lee Rowley Lee Rowley Conservative, North East Derbyshire 9:33 am, 20th March 2018

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered investment in local infrastructure to secure new homes in the East Midlands.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I welcome the opportunity to debate this important topic, particularly from a regional perspective, with Members from all parties who have joined us. I welcome Toby Perkins, my constituency neighbour, and Alex Norris. I welcome everybody on the Government side, from my right hon. Friend Sir Patrick McLoughlin to my hon. Friends the Members for Charnwood (Edward Argar) and for Northampton South (Andrew Lewer), as well as everybody else who is not from the east midlands but who has come to listen to this important debate none the less.

We all know that the United Kingdom faces a huge house building challenge over the coming years. With a growing population and strong economic growth over the last two decades, the number of houses built in this country has lagged behind the number needed to ensure that people have access to affordable homes to rent or buy to live in. The ability and aspiration to own a home, or the ability to rent a decent one, is a cornerstone of our democracy. It is usually the largest purchase that we ever make, and it roots us in our communities, gives us control over the place in which we live and allows us over time to accrue the capital that gives us the freedom to do as we wish in our lives.

Despite having cautioned against it in a previous debate, I will refer to polling to make my argument. Polling consistently shows that, given a free choice, 80% to 90% of people would ideally like to own a house if they could. Interestingly, that desire has only increased over time. According to Ipsos MORI’s long-term tracker, those born before the wars were slightly less likely to aspire to own a home than those in subsequent generations.

However, the aspiration to own a home does not always equate to the ability to do so. Home ownership rates have been falling for a number of years; according to the labour force survey, just under two thirds of people were homeowners at the end of 2016, compared with nearly 70% 10 years earlier. Although home ownership rates have been higher in the east midlands than in the country as a whole, they have also drifted down slightly over the past 10 years, from just over 70% to just under it.

Although that headline movement is challenging enough, the actual distribution of that ownership has also shifted significantly over the past 10 years between different groups of people in our country, particularly by age. One of the most concerning trends is the reduction in home ownership for people my age and below. The likelihood of owning a home for those aged between 18 and 34 has fallen from more than half in 2006 to just over a third.

Capitalism works only when someone has the ability to accrue capital. For too many people at the moment, particularly those in the younger generation, their aspiration to accrue capital is not matched by their ability to do so. We all know that we have a problem; it has been debated many times in this place. Although the roots of all problems are usually more complicated than they look, there is a general acceptance that the issue here can be diagnosed: demand remains, but supply has fallen behind. As the Secretary of State stated in his housing White Paper earlier this year:

“This country doesn’t have enough homes. That’s not a personal opinion or a political calculation. It’s a simple statement of fact.”

The population is growing—by some estimates, more than 210,000 households are created every single year—yet the number of new houses being built has not kept up with that demand in any meaningful way for a number of years. In fact, until last year it was more than a decade since that number was hit. To find a time when we consistently exceeded that volume of 210,000 homes, we have to go much further back. Last year we had a breakthrough, with 217,000 new homes built as part of the Government’s target of achieving 1 million new homes by 2020. I welcome that, but we know that we have a significant amount of work to do to rebuild and to realise the home ownership aspirations of so many of our constituents.