‘Here’s how to build a home owning Britain’

Here is the full text of the belligerent op-ed on housing by David Cameron and George Osborne in Saturday’s Times. My post on the implications is here.

Here’s how to build a home owning Britain

David Cameron and George Osborne

A shake-up of inheritance tax and crackdown on nimby councils will give young people a foothold on the property ladder

At a time of uncertainty abroad, here at home we will be delivering a budget next week with economic stability at its heart, offering security for working people.

Encouraging home ownership is central to that. Having your own place is an important stake in our economy. It’s also one of the best expressions of the aspirational country we want to build, where hard work is rewarded.

It’s also about social justice. We don’t want this to be a country where if you’re rich you can buy a home, but if you’re less well off you can’t. We want it to be One Nation, where whoever you are, you can get on in life.

In the past five years, we got builders building, lenders lending, and government-backed schemes alone helped more than 200,000 people on to the property ladder.

The next five will be about going much further. We will help people to reach their dreams by keeping Help to Buy until 2020 and extending the Right to Buy to 1.3 million housing association tenants. They will get a discount of up to 70 per cent to buy their own home, and we will open a register of interest so that thousands can sign up in the first year.

And once you’ve got your home, you’ll be able to pass it on. As we promised in our manifesto, we’ll take the family home out of inheritance tax for all but the richest — and it’s a promise we will keep. As we said we would, we’ll pay for this reform by limiting the pension tax relief to those who are earning more than £150,000. It can only be right that when you’ve worked hard to own your own home, it will go to your family and not the taxman.

We will also boost supply. We will build 200,000 starter homes by 2020, sold at below market rate and for first-time buyers under the age of 40. To deliver on this commitment, we will ensure every reasonably sized housing site includes a proportion of these homes for young people.

We will also say to local councils: you must give land with planning permission to people who want to build or commission their own homes. Custom-built homes account for 60 per cent of all of Germany’s new housing stock, and our plans will double the number in our country. We will also undertake a massive programme of regeneration around our train stations, as part of a wider drive to release public sector land for 150,000 homes.

We will also make the planning system more effective. We will set out more detail next week, as part of our productivity plan. It is unacceptable, for example, that many councils are still not close to having a plan for delivering the homes their communities need. We will take action, in consultation with local communities, to deliver the plans for those areas which have failed to do so.

Of course, there will be opponents of much of the above. We are determined to take them on.

First, the opponents of Right to Buy. There are those who think it’s unfair on private renters, who don’t get these discounts. But we’re offering them help through schemes such as shared ownership and Help to Buy. Let’s now help others, some of whom are the least well-off in our country. We’re proud that it’s the Conservatives who are giving them some hope, and if anyone wants to argue with us on that, we say bring it on.

Then there are those who oppose Right to Buy because they think it won’t work, and will reduce housing stock. But the system right now doesn’t work. One of the main ways to encourage housing associations to build more homes is to increase their revenue. That means increasing social rents. And that means increasing housing benefit — which comes from either taxing or borrowing more. This is another of the Labour-inspired merry-go- rounds we need to get off. Housing benefit already costs us £24 billion a year, two thirds of what we spend on defence. That figure needs to come down. And despite housing benefit revenue doubling in the past 13 years, some housing associations aren’t building enough homes — indeed, some aren’t building at all.

We have a better model. By helping people to own their own home, through Right to Buy, we can turn tenants into homeowners and reduce housing benefit bills. And by selling off the most expensive council houses when they become vacant we can replace every home we sell — whether an expensive council house or one through Right to Buy. And we will do so quicker than the current three-year rule requires.

So we will transform Britain: from a lower-home-ownership, higher-tax, higher-housing- benefit country to one that encourages home ownership, reduces taxes, lowers housing benefit bills and builds more homes.

Second, there will be the opponents of planning reform. We will always protect the green belt and make sure planning decisions are made by local people.

But the fact is that just 10 per cent of England is developed. There is capacity for 400,000 homes on brownfield land — we need to get building. And as we do, we will make sure the homes look good. We have already given local people the power to create neighbourhood plans; more than 1,000 are well under way. This gives local people an even greater ability to decide where new homes go and what they look like. And we will go further in the coming months.

But that all requires planning reform. It’s simple: you are either pro-reform, or not; for building homes, or not; on the side of young people, or not. We know our position. As a One Nation government, we will always be squarely on the side of those who want to get on.

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