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Housing Ladder: Young People

Volume 653: debated on Monday 28 January 2019

Since 2010, over 500,000 people have been helped into home ownership through Government-backed schemes, including Help to Buy and right to buy. Our recent evaluation of the Help to Buy equity loan scheme found that 58% of people using the scheme were under 35 years old.

As well as challenges, the Oxfordshire Cotswolds garden village provides a real opportunity for us to have the affordable starter homes that for so long have been lacking in places such as West Oxfordshire. What are Ministers doing to provide district councils such as mine with support to provide the housing mix that our area needs?

I warmly welcome the plans for the homes in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds garden village. My hon. Friend asks about supporting local authorities, and I would say to him that we have abolished the housing revenue account borrowing cap. That, alongside the £9 billion affordable homes programme and the revised national planning policy framework, empowers local authorities to deliver the right mix of homes for their area.

When young people find themselves homeless, they are often sofa surfing and living in risky accommodation because of the lack of council homes. Living in a rented room is more affordable than renting a private flat. Will the Secretary of State say what steps the Government are therefore taking to protect vulnerable young people seeking housing accommodation in houses in multiple occupation?

As the hon. Lady will know, we have raised standards on fitness for human habitation in legislation that was supported across the board, and improved the support to ensure that we have a stronger, more positive private rental sector market. Conversations are continuing, and I recognise the point that she makes about raising standards and ensuring that the sense of opportunity is firmly in place.

For many young people, the biggest obstacle to getting into the housing market is the value of the land. What discussions will the Secretary of State have with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about grading agricultural land to see if we can utilise some of the less good land for house building? [Interruption.]

Yes, firmly in Cornwall. The national planning policy framework is about empowering some of those local decisions and choices, in Cornwall and elsewhere. I am continuing to discuss how we can have that additionality—that positive benefit that we can unlock from our national environment through our planning work—with colleagues at DEFRA and others across Government.

The Government’s Help to Buy scheme has undoubtedly helped many families on to the housing ladder, but it has also driven many other families off it by pushing up the market price. How do the Government respond to research that suggests that the net impact is at best neutral and probably negative?

No, through our schemes more than half a million households have been helped into home ownership through Help to Buy and right to buy. The number of first-time buyers rose 82% between 2010 and 2017, and we have seen the first sustained rise in home ownership among 25 to 34-year-olds in 30 years. That is a positive step forward, although we know there is more to do. It is through initiatives such as Help to Buy that we are making that difference.

The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) knows all about houses as a whizz kid estate agent. Let us hear from the fellow.

If you are ever thinking of moving, Mr Speaker, do let me know.

Councils across North Yorkshire, such as Richmondshire and Hambleton, are delivering more affordable housing to purchase through the category of discount market sale. What plans does the Secretary of State have to roll this policy out nationally?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the veritable skills he clearly has in so many different areas, and on championing this particular course of action. It is right to recognise that we have delivered more affordable homes in the last eight years than there were in the last eight years of the last Labour Government. It is the sort of schemes that he identifies that are helping to make that difference, and we are examining carefully how such initiatives can be rolled forward.

The average mortgage for today’s 27-year-old on the Government’s living wage is more than half of their pay packet, but the Government are still allowing “affordable” to be defined as up to £450,000. Why do the Government not take a leaf out of Labour’s book and support our first-buy homes for which mortgages are no more than a third of average income?

I will take no lectures from the Labour party, given that when it was in government it saw house building fall to levels not seen since the 1920s. We are taking various steps to see more homes built and to ensure that people can get on the ladder to fulfil their dreams. That is something that we as a Government are committed to doing.