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We will bring a fresh approach to deal with the housing shortage

4 min read

Paddington Bear and marmalade sandwiches. Globetrotting musical talent – from the Beatles in the 60s, Oasis and Blur in the 90s to Adele and Ed Sheeran today. The unmatched pomp and pageantry of our Royal Family. Brilliant businesses supporting United Kingdom jobs and growth, from Waitrose and Virgin to Deliveroo and Majestic Wine.

The list of things that make us proud to be British goes on and on. But for too many people, one vital thing has dropped off that list in the past two decades: the ability to own a home.

Demand has rapidly outpaced supply for the past two decades, with the cumulative result being a whole generation priced out of ownership and a rental sector that has gone from lifestyle choice to necessity for young people.

The median house-price to earnings ratio has increased from three-and-a-half to nine during the past 25 years. The proportion of homes owned in England has fallen to 62.3 per cent, its lowest level for 40 years. Renting used to be a young person’s game, but as it gets harder to buy houses, renters are getting older: a quarter of 35 to 44-year-olds rent, for instance, compared with fewer than a tenth 30 years ago.

As a mother of four, when one of my children ask me – as they have done in the past – “Mum, why is it impossible for me to buy my own place? Where am I going wrong?” I have no good answers. My kids are holding down steady jobs and are financially responsible (enough). Why should they be denied the same opportunities once afforded to us?

It doesn’t need to be this way. And as the new housing minister I plan to do everything in my power to change things for the better and help eliminate some of that intergenerational unfairness.

But I want to do it in the right way. Housing shortages and astronomical prices should not be used to justify cookie-cutter developments that do little to foster a sense of community and pride in that area. 

An economy needs to build in order to grow. Few would disagree with that; but agreeing where development should happen has long been one of the knottiest political problems our society wrestles with.

And we have made some real progress in recent times, with the three highest annual rates in 30 years all coming in the last four financial years. But our mission has to be to go further and faster.

Countless studies have shown how beautiful and nature-rich places slow heart rates and lower cortisol levels.

That is why the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is so important. It is not a silver bullet. It will not change things overnight. But it will bring our ageing planning system into the 21st century and make sure that communities are at the heart of a new approach to housebuilding.

An approach centered around BIDEN. Not the leader of the free world, but Beautiful development; the right Infrastructure; a more Democratic, community-led planning system; building that enhances our natural Environment and; Neighbourhoods shaped by people who live in them.

To some people this might sound like pie-in-the-sky thinking that does not reflect the urgency of our current predicament. But I would disagree. These environments are not the passive backdrops to our lives. They shape how we feel. Countless studies have shown how beautiful and nature-rich places slow heart rates and lower cortisol levels. Conversely, living in uncared for, densely populated, ugly places increases stress and grinds people down. 

The vast majority of people understand we need to build more homes. But those same people also want to preserve the things that make their hometown special.

“In a property-owning democracy, the more people who own their own homes, the better.” So wrote Winston Churchill in his introduction to the Conservative manifesto in 1951. Home ownership would eventually become a rite of passage for Britain’s aspirational young. I will be working tirelessly to restore that aspiration in the months ahead.

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