The Government stand firmly on the side of people who want to work hard, save up, buy their own homes, and retire with dignity. We have increased allowances for individual savings accounts, introduced the Help to Buy scheme, pensioner bonds and pension freedoms, and taken 95% of people out of tax on their savings.
Alongside the support that has been introduced over the last five years, maintaining a strong economy and low interest rates is one of the most important ways of helping home owners. Can my hon. Friend assure my constituents in Havant that the Government will continue to ignore the Opposition’s calls for more taxes and more spending, which put our economy at risk and make it harder for people to get on to the housing ladder?
What a pleasure it is to welcome my hon. Friend to the Chamber. He is absolutely right: more people are employed than ever before, and mortgage rates are extremely low. As a result of our long-term economic plan, my hon. Friend’s constituents in Havant, and constituents elsewhere, can now aspire to own their own homes one day.
Policies such as Help to Buy have proved very popular in my constituency, but may I urge my hon. Friend to be more ambitious in the longer term? Will she consider expanding the shared-ownership model, which enables people to take an initially small equity share in a property at the start of their careers, and then save up in order to expand it as their careers progress?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on the strong endorsement he received from the voters of Milton Keynes to return here and express their interests. I am very pleased to hear Help to Buy is so popular in Milton Keynes. The town tops the charts for the attractiveness of buying versus renting. Shared ownership is indeed an excellent way to help people take their first steps on the property ladder, and the Government remain committed to it.
The Minister talks about housing topping the charts in Milton Keynes, but in my constituency we are in danger of topping the charts in house prices, with the average price now £606,000. That is being fuelled in part by overseas buyers who purchase a property and either rent it out or do not live there. Have the Government any plans to tackle this and help my constituents get on the housing ladder?
My hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart) topped the chart in Milton Keynes personally as well, but the hon. Lady raises an important question: London house prices are a key issue for her constituents. That is why the Government have brought in so much support to increase the number of affordable homes. The number of social homes and affordable homes increased by over 200,000 in the last Parliament. We are committed to continuing that great work and to bringing in the concept of starter homes, which we hope will add further to housing supply.
I genuinely welcome the Minister to her post, but I ask her to be very careful about the right to buy housing association properties. Will she look across at cities such as Paris, where people on low incomes have been driven out and live in ghettoes many, many miles outside the city? If we do not build more social housing that is available to lower-income people, that will happen in our cities.
I am sure the hon. Gentleman—who kindly welcomes me to my place—will welcome the fact that more social housing was built in the last Parliament than in the entire 13 years of the last Labour Government. He rightly raises a point about housing associations: we must allow more supply of housing association properties. That is why this Government will bring in the right to buy for housing association tenants, which will enable more capital to come into that sector and more housing association properties to be built.