Housing and Planning — [Sir Charles Walker in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:30 pm on 3rd March 2020.

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Photo of Ben Everitt Ben Everitt Conservative, Milton Keynes North 3:30 pm, 3rd March 2020

I thank my hon. Friend Neil O'Brien for initiating this important debate. We have heard from hon. Members of all political colours, representing areas rich in diversity, about the multiple problems with our housing market and planning. We have also heard many proposed solutions. That in itself is a real warning sign.

We should accept that the housing market is like an ecosystem or biosphere of interconnected dependencies and feedback mechanisms. When we put an intervention in one side, it goes into a black box that policy makers must deal with, and something unexpected pops out the other side. This is fiendishly complicated, but we must get it right. The price of failure is obvious: more unaffordable houses and continuing not to meet our supply targets. The prizes for getting it right are multiple and go across many policy areas—from solving homelessness, to local economic productivity and our sense of place. Building houses in the right place can contribute to food sustainability for our country.

My hon. Friend James Daly made the point well that we are building the wrong kinds of houses in the wrong places. It is as simple as that. If we focused on building more two-bedroom houses and bungalows, we would free up capacity for people who are, frankly, over-occupying larger houses, and that would help the whole system. That, however, relies on liquidity in the market, where stamp duty is a real issue, because it acts as a break on social mobility as well as on liquidity.

I was struck by the comments by Dr Huq. We are blessed with a modern problem: people are living longer, happier, wealthier and more independent lives. That is wonderful. In so doing, however, they are staying in their homes for longer. We must sort out supply and liquidity, and we need homes that are more sustainable, affordable, appropriate to their area and proportionate to the areas they surround.