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Home Ownership

Volume 534: debated on Monday 31 October 2011

This Government are, of course, committed, first, to ensuring that interest rates remain low for as long as possible, so we have been tackling the deficit to help first-time buyers. In addition, we are helping 10,500 first-time buyers through our FirstBuy scheme and 100,000 new right-to-buy tenants currently in council houses will own their own homes.

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the gap between deposit aspiration and deposit actuation for first-time buyers in Banbury and Bicester. Will he update the House on how the FirstBuy scheme will support young first-time buyer families in my constituency?

People are having to save such large deposits for their homes and we are keen to do something about that, so the FirstBuy scheme ensures that they need to save only 10% rather than the current average of 20%. I am pleased to tell my hon. Friend that 169 homes are available in his constituency under the scheme.

At a time when the Scottish Widows research shows that the average age of first-time unassisted buyers is set to rise to 44, is the Minister at all concerned that he might be just a little too complacent in his response?

First, just to correct the figures, we think that the current average age is about 37. There was a report suggesting that over the next 20, 30 or 40 years the figure might increase unless action is taken. We are absolutely focused on taking that action, which is why, as we have discussed, 100,000 homes are being sold through the right-to-buy scheme, with 100,000 affordable homes being built. This afternoon, we have discussed the 100,000 homes on Government land and, of course, the 170,000 homes through the new affordable homes programme, which the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Andrew Stunell) mentioned. Yes, we are confident; we are doing many of the things that never happened under the previous Administration.

Because the Government have mismanaged the economy, consumer confidence, house prices and house building are falling, and we have a mortgage market in which people cannot get mortgages. Were it not for the 60,000 homes that were commissioned and paid for by a Labour Government but built in the past 12 months—Labour’s legacy—the house building industry would have been on its knees. Will the Housing Minister now back Labour’s call to repeat the bankers’ bonus tax in order to build 25,000 homes and create tens of thousands of jobs and apprenticeships? Will he also work with lenders and the house building industry to introduce a mortgage scheme that will offer hope to those who wish to buy their own home that they will be able to realise their dream?

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new position. He will be the eighth housing spokesman or deputy on the Labour side whom I have faced either in government or in opposition. I hope that he stays there longer than the previous incumbents. I think the main questions are about the new homes bonus, the HomeSwap Direct scheme, the opposition to £100,000-salaried tenants in council homes and whether the gap in policy and the constant switching of Ministers are going to come to an end, because without that the Opposition have nothing to say about housing policy at all. We are starting to get homes built in this country for the first time in years.