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Housing: Shared Ownership

Volume 793: debated on Tuesday 6 November 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what proposals they have to promote awareness of shared ownership amongst prospective house buyers.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare an interest as co-chair of the All-Party Group on Shared Ownership Housing.

My Lords, we support the delivery of shared ownership through our £9 billion affordable homes programme. Since 2010, we have delivered around 60,000 new shared ownership homes. To help us go further, we announced in the Autumn Budget last week that we are inviting proposals from partners to deliver a new wave of shared ownership homes. The aim is to help more people to realise their dream of a home of their own.

I pay tribute to Her Majesty’s Government for listening and for removing the stamp duty anomaly in relation to shared ownership. Is my noble friend aware that there is a sister scheme for affordable renting, on a secured tenancy basis, for a period of five to 20 years—depending on what the tenant wants to do—followed by purchase? Against that background, and bearing in mind that 90% of young people want to own their own homes, is it not time that Her Majesty’s Government and Her Majesty’s Opposition trumpeted these two schemes so that our young people can own their own homes?

My Lords, I thank my noble friend and pay tribute to his work on home ownership in Islington and in the other place. On the specific issue of affordable homes and social homes, the Green Paper that was out for consultation until today is taking views on how we can facilitate shared ownership. An example is staircasing, which allows people to increase their stakes by a single percent, rather than by 10%, as it is at the moment. As I have outlined, we have been taking proposals on private housing since the Autumn Budget.

My Lords, I draw the attention of the House to my relevant registered interests. How does the Minister respond to the suggestion that shared ownership is the poor relation of Help to Buy on the Government’s priority list?

Both are important parts of the buying programme. We have been encouraging Help to Buy; the noble Lord will be aware that it has been extended for two years. We are very keen on shared ownership. As I said, a consultation on social housing has just ended. We seek to extend this more to private housing and are therefore asking for proposals. That consultation is open until 1 February 2019.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the main reason why shared ownership is so important is the high price of houses? He referred to the announcement in the Budget. Will he explain further why Help to Buy, which has increased house prices and builders’ profits, has been extended in the Budget to 2023?

My Lords, we value shared ownership very much. That is why we are looking at it in the private context as well as the social one, where it was focused previously. As I have indicated, Help to Buy has been extended for a further two years. It is very easy for those in this House, most, if not all, of whom will own their own homes, but we should recognise that this is an aspiration for a lot of people and that is exactly what the Government have done.

My Lords, does the route to affordable homes consultation—which I think the noble Lord was referring to—include looking at the price of land, which is at the heart of the problem?

My Lords, a consultation on the social housing Green Paper, with which the noble Lord will be familiar, has closed today. On shared ownership, we have announced a consultation that will look at private shared ownership and how we can encourage that. Necessarily, one of the matters it will look at is the price of land.

But when land in the London area, or outside London, costs anything from £3 million to £5 million an acre, and could previously have been purchased for perhaps £20,000 or £30,000 an acre as agricultural land, is there not a real problem that has to be sorted out before we can resolve this difficulty?

The noble Lord is right in seeking to identify the problem; what we do about it is another issue. But we are looking at issues around land value, such as compulsory purchase. These are part of the mix, but if it were a simple problem, it would have been solved by Governments long ago.

My Lords, if Help to Buy drives up house prices, how does it help the people to whom the Minister referred to realise their aspiration? Why do the Government not admit that they got it wrong with this policy?

My Lords, anything that increases demand for housing drives up house prices. People already aspire to own their own homes; it is not that they are adding to the total of people seeking a home—they want to own their own home. We should recognise that that is a widely held aspiration among people. Not all people—many will want to rent, and we seek to provide for that as well. However, home ownership is something that many people want.

My Lords, can my noble friend also bear in mind the tremendous challenges in rural areas for affordable housing, whatever scheme it might be? I point out to noble Lords that it is not just about the cost here in London and suburbia; there is a very real problem in rural areas. In particular, in some areas landowners have been quite willing to subsidise and give land, and make it available, and that scheme needs to be looked at again.

My Lords, my noble friend is quite right that, although there are particular problems associated with London and the south-east, we should not forget that there is a range of problems in rural areas, which differ from area to area. We have the rural exemptions, but we are focused on this, seeking to ensure that in parts of rural Britain people can afford their own home.

My Lords, if I may help my noble friend on land value, a report on a review of build out was commissioned by the Chancellor and led by Oliver Letwin, which I was also part of. That was published last Monday at the time of the Budget, and includes specific proposals to address the important issue of land value.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. I was aware that it had been published. We are now looking at that and considering how to take it forward. It certainly looks at issues relating to land value and compulsory purchase.

My Lords, what are the Government doing to encourage community ownership, when it is still ownership but the land itself remains within the local authority?

My Lords, the noble Lord will be aware of community ownership proposals and policies relating to public houses and so on. I do not think he was getting at that, however; rather it was to do with residences. I will write to the noble Lord on that broader issue and copy it to the Library.