Access to housing is fundamental to our liberty, it is the entry point to a civilised society. Yet despite being one of the world’s richest countries, we have a housing crisis in Britain that robs people of their freedom and crushes aspiration for many millions of people who want nothing more than to a decent, secure and affordable place to live.
House prices are now almost seven times people’s incomes. Home ownership is falling, and a majority of those that manage to get on the housing ladder have had to rely on the Bank of Mum and Dad.
Britain needs an approach to housing which provides people with genuine opportunity to access the housing they need at an affordable cost. This is simply not happening.
That is why I have made housing a key priority for the Liberal Democrats, and why we have chosen to talk about housing on our first opposition day debate of the Parliament.
For decades, successive Governments have not built enough homes, leaving the UK with a crippling undersupply and an industry producing only around half the houses we need.
This desperate lack of supply has fuelled rising house prices and now many people are priced out of the communities in which they grew up.
At the same time, the lack of affordable housing to rent is at crisis point. With 1.6 million households on social housing waiting lists and 100,000 homeless children, the most vulnerable people in our society are being let down.
We need radical reform to address this crisis – house building on a scale not seen since the post-war housing crisis which saw Macmillan building 300,000 homes a year – the same number that Liberal Democrats have been calling for, and continue to call for, to tackle our present housing crisis.
However, this Government has not yet demonstrated its commitment to solving the crisis. It has made a short term target of 1 million homes by 2020. But even this falls well short of need.
The Government must give us a long term plan for fixing the problems of housing supply as a matter of urgency.
Liberal Democrats are calling for an immediate lifting of the borrowing cap for councils, so they can build more homes, and for ten new garden cities.
Unless we build enough homes to meet demand, year after year, housing costs will rise further out of reach. For those with aspirations of getting on the housing ladder, their dream will become less and less likely to become a reality.
Tim Farron is the Leader of the Liberal Democrats and the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale