Nick Boles is Minister for Planning and Development and the Member of Parliament for Grantham and Stamford. Yes to Homes, a campaign from the National Housing Federation, encourages councillors and local people to say yes to new homes in their area. Sign up and join the campaign at: www.yestohomes.co.uk
The desire to provide a secure home for yourself and your family is one of the most fundamental human urges. People love their homes, take pride in them, invest in them. If you know that you are likely to stay in your home for some time, you are more likely to meet your neighbours, support local community groups and get involved in local schools. That’s why Conservative Prime Ministers from Harold Macmillan, through Margaret Thatcher and John Major, to David Cameron, have believed in extending home ownership. All of them understood that the more people who are given the opportunity to buy their own home, the better it is for society as a whole.
For some years we have not been building enough new homes to meet the needs of a population that is ageing and growing: partly because of an excessively restrictive and bureaucratic planning system and partly because of constrained access to finance following the bursting of Labour’s debt bubble. This Government has acted to reform the planning system and make it simpler and more responsive. We have also introduced Help To Buy, so that those who can afford to service a mortgage but don’t have the money for a 20 percent deposit are given a chance to get a mortgage and buy their own home. These actions are beginning to bear fruit: there was a 20 percent increase in the number of housing units with detailed planning permission between 2011/12 and 2012/13; and housing starts have risen by six percent in the last quarter and are one third higher than they were this time last year.
Nevertheless, there is much more work to do before we will be building enough to make homes available and affordable for all working people who want them (and not just those who can rely on the bank of mum and dad to give them a leg up.) We are asking local councillors around the country to take this seriously and draw up plans identifying enough land to build the houses needed in their area in the next five years. It is right that decisions about where new houses should go should be made locally – by people who know their area best. But with that power comes responsibility: the responsibility to provide enough land to meet people’s housing needs in full. Of course councillors should protect the Green Belt, our finest landscapes and areas of special environmental value. Of course they should locate as many new homes as possible on brownfield sites. These are admirable objectives which the Government strongly supports. But they must not become excuses for local councils not to provide enough homes for the next generation.
The Conservative Party wins elections when it backs people’s ambitions to create a good life for themselves and their families. It loses them when it defends the privileges of a comfortable elite. As the next election approaches, David Cameron is clear that the Conservative Party should be saying Yes to Homes.