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Ben Howlett: This government's planning policies will help young people get a step up on the property ladder

Picture 2 Ben Howlett is the National Chairman of Conservative Future.    

As I grew up during the 1990s and early 2000s, my parents taught me that I should aspire to one day own a property.  Today I look back as a young professional who turned 25 in August with a sense of realism.  I know all too well the struggle that young people face to get that first step up onto the property ladder.

Over the last 13 years it has proven ever more difficult to own property.  Labour has left a generation of young people unable to aspire to the dreams of our Conservative forefathers. Home ownership under Labour fell to its lowest rate since 1990. In a speech to the Fabian Society, John Healey said: “Home ownership has been dropping since 2005 and I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing”. From the earliest days of Conservatism, Edmund Burke and contemporary Conservatives believed that self-betterment and upward social mobility is partly created by property ownership.  Labour have laid waste to something I believe passionately in; individual self-betterment.

In the 1980s Mrs Thatcher led ‘right to buy’, creating a system designed to produce a property owning class; a class of aspiration and self betterment. This is something that enormously benefitted our parents and was a major factor in rising living standards.  Labour were given an excellent legacy to take forward. However, with what is becoming an increasing trend, they promised so much and delivered nothing for an entire generation of young people.  For decades, not enough new homes have been built.  This week, headlines of a ‘housing crisis’ have been top of the domestic news agenda.  Let us never forget those that have left us in this mess, those that created a complex, bureaucratic, unsustainable and unaffordable housing system.  Labour priced millions of young people out of the housing market by dithering and not solving the problem.

This Government by contrast has done more in the last year than Labour did in the last 13 years.  It is committed to increase housing supply.  For example, this Government is making more brown-belt land available for housing and investing £4.5bn in affordable homes.  This will deliver 170,000 new homes in the next 4 years for young people.  More houses provided to meet the needs of a growing population.  This will allow, for the first time in a decade, young people to once again aspire to the property owning dream.

Top down targets never delivered the housing needs for a growing population. John Healey even admitted that Labour’s planning system was “too top-down”.  For the first time, local communities are being empowered to deliver for their local needs. I was surprised to see the result of the ConHome poll on the draft National Planning Policy Framework as these plans could not be more conservative; drastically reducing bureaucracy, protecting the green belt, empowering local people to choose where they want houses built, and making a presumption in favour of sustainable development.

Twinned with around 300,000 empty homes turned into liveable spaces, FirstBuy will get more young people into work.  This new scheme will help first time buyers who are struggling to get onto the property ladder due to the need for larger deposits.  With £400 million available, 10,500 first time buyers will now be able to purchase a new build homes.

As ever, the shift in this Government towards a progressive vision is clear.  Local Government Plans will ensure the demand for affordable housing in their area is enshrined in law.  Young families will be entitled to a helping hand from the Government to get a firm foot on the once slippery step of home ownership.  Not only will this help young people get onto the property ladder, it will also underpin local economic growth, creating new jobs and opportunities for hundreds of thousands of young people.

In the 1980s young people had a dream, one of home ownership.  Labour destroyed that aspiration. Now this Government must fix their mess by creating one of the biggest opportunities this country has seen in a generation, the opportunity to once again take that tentative step onto the home ownership ladder. 


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