This week, the Government’s independent Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission produced its second annual report. The findings were striking. It predicted that the current decade (2010-2020) will be the first since records began without a fall in absolute levels of poverty and that younger British people are being left behind, in terms of jobs, earnings and housing.
According to the Commission, home ownership rates have halved among young people in the last 20 years and the current generation of young people are now far, far less likely to progress onto the housing ladder than their parents’ generation.
The report confirms my own experience of talking to people in Lincoln: for too many the dream of owning their own place has disappeared completely. More and more 20 and 30-somethings are living with their parents, and families are having to move further from jobs and wider family to find homes they can afford to buy or rent.
It’s a simple case of low supply and ever greater demand: not enough homes are being built to match the number needed, prices continue upwards and for more and more families, owning a home becomes unobtainable. As earnings have slumped compared to the cost of living, people have found it increasingly hard to get by, let alone save for a deposit. On top of that, David Cameron’s Government has presided over the lowest levels of house-building in peacetime since the 1920s. It’s no wonder that home ownership has declined to its lowest level in 30 years. By 2020, the average deposit for a home in the UK is set to rise to £72,000.
For all these reasons, Labour has announced significant reforms to tackle what is now a full scale housing crisis. These reforms set out a plan to meet Labour’s commitments of building 200,000 homes a year by 2020, and to double the number of first-time buyers over the next decade. Labour’s plans will also help first time buyers in Lincoln get on the ladder by ensuring that they’re given priority access rights when houses in the area go on sale.
In addition, local authorities will be able to designate new ‘Housing Growth Areas’, which will have powers to assemble land and give certainty that building will take place. They will also be able to restrict the sale of homes in these areas so they cannot be sold for buy-to-let or buy-to-leave empty properties.
In Lincoln, the Labour City Council have helped 55 first time buyers into their homes in the last year, through their mortgage support scheme. This scheme enables first time buyers buying properties worth up to £135,000 to only have to find a 5% deposit.
The City Council are also working on plans for a ‘Western Growth Corridor’ at Swanpool which could see 2,700 homes built, as well as space for new businesses, bringing new jobs and growth for our vibrant and dynamic city. I am pleased that initial environmental concerns have been overcome to the satisfaction of Environment Agency, and that the development, including the right infrastructure, transport links and facilities, can now press ahead.
Much more needs to be done to reverse years of building too few homes in Britain and to help ensure that home ownership doesn’t continue to be nothing more than a pipe dream for so many families. Labour recognises this and that’s why building homes and helping first time buyers on to the property ladder is a number one political priority.