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First-time Home Buyers

Volume 702: debated on Monday 25 October 2021

The Government are committed to helping more people own their own home. We offer several schemes to support first-time buyers, including our recently launched First Homes programme, which provides discounts of at least 30% on first homes. Our Help to Buy and shared ownership schemes also offer affordable routes into home ownership.

Greater Cambridgeshire, the city and South Cambridgeshire combined, is planning to build 49,000 new houses and flats over the next 20 years, which is as many as already exist in the city of Cambridge. In South Cambridgeshire district that amounts to 53% more house building than the Government assess is needed, and it will double the amount of house building over the next 20 years. Will the Minister confirm that that unprecedented house building bonanza is not being imposed on South Cambridgeshire by the national Government, but that it is an active decision of the local planning authority, South Cambridgeshire District Council?

My hon. Friend is a doughty campaigner on behalf of his constituents. Of course we need more homes to be built in the right places, and there are parts of our country where the cost of buying or renting a home is many multiples of local household income. However, he is right: local housing need is not a binding target, and local authorities have responsibility for working out what their local target should be, and agreeing that with the Planning Inspectorate. Although we welcome ambitious local authorities, they have an absolute responsibility to set their own housing targets.

I appreciate the Minister’s response to the question. We all recognise that we need a mix of housing provisions for the market to thrive, but does he agree that home ownership remains a huge aspiration for many of our constituents across the country, and that schemes such as Help to Buy have been a vital tool in supporting thousands of first-time buyers on to the property market?

My right hon. Friend is right. Every time we poll people, more than 80% say that they want the opportunity, the right, and the dream of owning their own home and having a stake in their community and country. That is why the Help to Buy scheme has been so important. Just a few weeks ago we announced the 300,000th Help to Buyer, Sam Legg and his partner Megan, who live in Asfordby in Leicestershire. They said that without Help to Buy they would not have been able to get on the property ladder. We want more Sams, and we want more Megans.

Many first-time buyers thought that they had bought the home of their dreams, only to discover that it was rendered worthless because they are caught up in the cladding scandal. Earlier this month, one of my constituents received a service charge bill for £103,000 to fix cladding for which they are not responsible, and requesting sums of money that they do not possess. It is reported that the Secretary of State, who I welcome to his post, has been told by the Prime Minister to “sort out” the problem. It is evident to all our constituents affected that the measures that the Government have announced thus far, which I support, are insufficient to bring this nightmare to an end. When will we see a comprehensive plan to help those leaseholders?

The right hon. Gentleman is quite right: there are many people caught up in a terrible situation. That is why we have already spent more than £5 billion of public money on remediating the highest-rise buildings, and we will be bringing forward further proposals to deal with some of the other issues that he identifies. Fundamentally, this issue needs to be brought back into proportion. If we look at what Ken Knight and Judith Hackitt have said, there are far too many lenders and insurers that have been risk averse and have been ascribing zero values to property where no EWS1 form and no remediation, or very little remediation, is necessary. We are working with that sector to make sure that we fix it, and we will.