3. What steps he is taking to help first-time buyers get on the housing ladder. (900551)
The Government are committed to supporting people’s aspirations to own their own home. In just six months, our Help to Buy scheme has helped over 15,000 households reserve a new home for themselves and their families. The scheme is proving extremely popular with first-time buyers.
May I also take this opportunity to pay tribute to my predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr Prisk), for all his hard work, commend him for the gracious way he has handled himself and thank him for his generosity towards me?
I welcome the Minister to his new post. Many critics of Help to Buy point to the possibility of a housing bubble, but they clearly have not visited the north-west, where house prices have fallen over the past year. Why should first-time buyers in Blackpool North and Cleveleys be prevented from getting on the housing ladder because of metropolitan snobbery and petty envy?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I agree that at the moment there is a huge media focus on London and the south-east. As a northern MP, I know that if we remove London and the south-east from the national figure of 3.8% for price rises, we get 2.1% for our part of the country, but several other parts have seen no increase at all, so we need to stick up for the Blackpools, Burnleys and Bradfords as well.
The average earnings for my constituents working full time last year were under £23,000, so they know all about why it is right to cap benefits in order that people who work hard are not undermined by those who live off the taxpayer. Meanwhile, the average home in Norwich North sells for around £145,000. Does the Minister agree that Help to Buy can help make the dream of home ownership a reality for those people?
I thank my hon. Friend for her question. Since the housing crash in 2008, many families in her constituency have struggled to get on the housing ladder, and the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme, in particular, helps people like those she has mentioned. The tremendous response that RBS, for instance, has had, with some 10,000 inquiries in the first four working days, demonstrates that the Government are on the side of hard-working people and will support people such as the constituents she mentioned.
I welcome the Minister to his new responsibility. Last week the Communities and Local Government Committee had the Department’s permanent secretary and officials before us. We asked about the impact of the Help to Buy scheme on new house building. They said that the equity share element would add a maximum of 5,000 new homes a year, but they could not give us any assessment at all of the impact of the mortgage guarantee element. Is that because the Government, like everybody else, now believe that the scheme will have a minimal impact on house building but a significant impact on house prices?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind words and look forward to working with the Select Committee. The Government have delivered 334,000 houses so far, 84,000 of which are affordable homes, and put a range of mechanisms in place to deliver houses. That is what is really important to people out there.
23. The Government are absolutely right to help first-time buyers, but of equal importance are those who wish to move up the housing ladder but cannot do so without the first-time buyers entering the market. Does the Minister agree that the second-hand market is therefore as important as the sale of new homes, and what will he do to support it? (900572)
New build is really important, but my hon. Friend is right that we must also stimulate the existing housing market. The mortgage guarantee scheme covers existing housing, so I suggest that he goes out to promote it to residents in his beautiful city of Carlisle.
One of the real problems for first-time buyers is that simply not enough homes are being built to meet demand. In Lewisham, of the 15,000 homes that have been granted planning permission over the past six years, more than 9,000 are yet to be built. Is it not about time that developers were told, “Use it or lose it” when it comes to planning permissions?