John Mann MP: One million bungalows give the Chancellor a chance to take real action on housing
After years of false starts and half measures on housing, this Budget should be Philip Hammond’s chance to do something serious and long lasting, says John Mann MP.
Any government—let alone one in as precarious a situation as this one—that looks at the fact that the age of the average first time buyer is now well above 30 and fails to act is a very foolish one indeed.
That there are those in their 20s and 30s waiting to get their first foothold on the property ladder despite working full time is a disgrace. Whereas my generation knew that working hard, and saving patiently and conscientiously was the easiest way to own a home, now it’s down to chance and the generosity of the Bank of Mum and Dad.
Those in their late 20s who are stuck renting are not the only feature of our housing market however. Many elderly people today are asset-rich and cash-poor. Their homes are expensive to heat and cause them real headaches to manage.
Real action on housing has always been hamstrung by the high cost of building millions of new family homes, and the consequent political fallout from middle-class homeowners seeing their property prices tumble. If the Chancellor really wants the numbers in his spreadsheet to add up, I believe there’s a simpler solution that will give a real boost to our economy.
Ahead of tomorrow’s budget, I am calling for the Chancellor to build one million bungalows.
Building a bungalow comes at a fraction of the cost of building a family home. Making sure that these new bungalows are modern, well-insulated and energy efficient would give those moving out of much-loved family houses an inviting new place to call home.
The economic benefits would be tremendous. As elderly people move out of family houses to cheaper new-build bungalows, there would be a massive release of equity into our economy. Elderly people who were once cash-constrained by high heating bills and expensive repairs would now have the freedom to enjoy their well-earned retirement and enjoy the pleasures retirement can bring without always having to watch the pennies.
Aside from the economic benefits, the social case is compelling. Elderly people who have become isolated living in homes that are too large for themselves could look forward to finding companionship and community among their new neighbours when moving into their bungalow.
Each new bungalow would cause one new home with the potential to house a young family to be freed up. Each of these homes would be a welcome addition to our strained housing stock. Those who have worked hard for years to save for a mortgage would get the chance to get their first foothold on the property ladder and a permanent place to raise a family.
Too often in politics, we file problems away because the finer detail is too complex or the politics too challenging. By building a million bungalows however, I believe I’m bowling the Chancellor a ball he could easily hit for six.
Taking action on housing is long overdue. If the Chancellor announces a massive house building program tomorrow, there will be loud cheers from all sides of the House. If, however, he thinks long and hard about how to get the best bang for his buck, he will realise that he can maximise the benefit for a fraction of the cost.
Building a million bungalows is the way to solve our housing shortage. My door is always open if the Chancellor wants to ask my advice.
John Mann is the Labour Member of Parliament for Bassetlaw
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