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Increasing Home Ownership

Volume 707: debated on Monday 24 January 2022

As a Government we are determined to level up opportunities across our country, and that starts with building the homes that our people need. That is why we are helping millions of people into home ownership. Since 2010, Government-backed schemes have helped over 756,000 households to purchase their own dream home. Last June, we launched our new flagship First Homes scheme, providing homes discounted by at least 30% for first-time buyers, with a priority for local residents and key workers.

First Homes is an excellent initiative that could deliver homes in my constituency for local first-time buyers at even below half price. Will the Minister accelerate their delivery through section 106 agreements, pilot their delivery on public sector land in my constituency, and rename the policy from First Homes to “Half-Price Homes”, because then people would understand it much more clearly?

My hon. Friend, who is a doughty campaigner for home ownership, teases me. He wishes me to call First Homes “Half-Price Homes”. Perhaps that will become the shorthand name for this project. Perhaps even, in time, they will be known as Hollinrake homes. As to his other questions, we are already commissioning First Homes properties on both public and private sector land through our two early delivery programmes. We are aiming to deliver 1,500 of them before April 2023, and we certainly want to accelerate the programme so that more people are able to achieve the dream home that they want and deserve.

The whole nation breathed a sigh of relief when the Government’s planning-by-algorithm so-called reforms were ditched, so when will the son of planning-by-algorithm come out? My constituent Heidi has kept a small hairdressing business going throughout the pandemic, but she is not eligible for Help to Buy, so will the Minister look at introducing more schemes that would help people like her? We also want things that will preserve suburban character, because all the build-to-let things going up locally, up to 60 storeys high, are destroying everything that people liked about Ealing and Acton.

We certainly want people such as Heidi to achieve the home that they want. Through Help to Buy, right to buy, right to acquire, help to build and a variety of mechanisms, including our 95% fixed-term mortgage guarantee, there is a multiplicity of ways in which we can get people on to the housing ladder. The hon. Lady also asks about our planning reforms, and I can tell her that she will be hearing more about those in due course.

I am sure that the Minister would agree that by far the best people to decide how many homes we want and where they should be are local people. Would he therefore agree with me and the town of Malmesbury in my constituency, which raised the point that the neighbourhood plan, which this Conservative Government brought in, is currently being trumped by the so-called five-year housing land supply figures, which are handed down by central Government? Will he give me a hint as to whether greater importance will be given in the forthcoming housing White Paper to neighbourhood planning, thereby allowing local people to decide how many houses they want and where?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question, because it gives me the opportunity to make it clear that it is for local communities to determine how many homes they want and need in their vicinity. Local housing need numbers are not an end point; they are a starting point. It is for local authorities to determine what constraints they may face to determine the numbers of homes that they need in their area. They then agree those numbers with the Planning Inspectorate to set a sound plan, and that is then the number that the local authorities build toward. Local authorities that fail to set an up-to-date plan leave their constituents at risk of speculative development, so it is for local authorities to set the numbers and make their plans.