Theresa May to renew 'personal mission' to fix broken housing market

Bob The Builder

Theresa May will signal that tackling the housing crisis will be a key theme of next week’s budget as pressure mounts on the chancellor, Philip Hammond, to release fresh resources to invest in building new homes.

MPs and ministers have been urging the chancellor to spend more on housebuilding, since the general election campaign underscored younger voters’ concerns about the difficulties of getting on the property ladder.

May will visit a development of new homes in Barnet, north London, on Thursday to repeat the pledge she made in her ill-fated Conservative conference speech in September to make housebuilding part of her “personal mission”.

“For decades we simply have not been building enough homes, nor have we been building them quickly enough, and we have seen prices rise,” she will say. “The number of new homes being delivered each year has been increasing since 2010, but there is more we can do.

“Today I am seeing the work now under way to put this right and, in coming weeks and months, my government will be going further to ensure that we build more homes, more quickly. This will be a long journey and it will take time for us to fix the broken housing market, but I am determined to build a Britain fit for the future.”

Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, took the unusual step last month of going public with a call for the government to borrow more money to invest in housing; sources suggested the figure he had in mind was up to £50bn.

But Hammond, who when asked to describe himself in one word recently said “fiscal”, is keen to avoid making costly commitments against the backdrop of anaemic economic growth, and has asked Tory MPs being consulted about the budget only to submit ideas if they are fully funded.

With less than a week to go before the budget, discussions are ongoing about the detailed housing measures to be included.

MPs who have contributed policy suggestions to the chancellor said building more housing was the number one priority among Tory colleagues, with some ideas including the release of green belt land for development as long as new countryside is designated for protection, and the loosening of planning restrictions on housing around transport hubs.

May will announce on Thursday that housing association debt will be removed from the government’s balance sheet, meaning it will no longer qualify as public borrowing; this accounting measure will free up associations to build more homes, Downing Street said.

The prime minister will also highlight a series of measures the government has already taken to boost housing supply, including increasing the social housing budget from £7bn to £9bn.

Javid will be in Bristol on Thursday, where he will issue a robust call for action, saying: “The generation crying out for help with housing is not over-entitled. They don’t want the world handed to them on a plate. They want simple fairness, moral justice, the opportunity to play by the same rules enjoyed by those who came before them.”

He will warn that without radical action on housing the government risks creating “a rootless generation, drifting from one short-term tenancy to the next, never staying long enough to play a role in their community”.

Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the foreign affairs select committee, called on the prime minister in the House of Commons on Wednesday to take advantage of the lower deficit to boost investment.

“Our deficit has now come down, and our debts are oversubscribed. Will she take this opportunity to invest in our economy even more than she is already, and perhaps take the chance to build more homes?” he asked.

A later question from Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet, urged the prime minister to reaffirm the government’s commitment to protecting the green belt, which she did.

“It is important that we see more homes being built, particularly in London, but there are many opportunities to do that that do not affect the green belt,” May replied.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Heather Stewart and Rowena Mason, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 15th November 2017 22.30 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010