“As we take infrastructure decisions like with new housing, roads, or exploration for oil and gas the benefits should be shared not just with local authorities but with local people themselves. That is why school reform is such a passion for so many Conservatives – and I will be setting out my own plans for schools policy in the coming weeks.”
“But it is also why housing matters so much, and why we need to do far more to get more houses built. Because unless we deal with the housing deficit, we will see house prices keep on rising. Young people will find it even harder to afford their own home. The divide between those who inherit wealth and those who don’t will become more pronounced. And more and more of the country’s money will go into expensive housing instead of more productive investments that generate more economic growth.”
David Cameron’s views were hard to research in the simple sense that he made a mass of press-released speeches between the beginning of his leadership campaign in 2005 and his exit from Downing Street earlier this year. Some are now hard to find, and those that can be found are not always consistent with others – not so much because he was an evasive politician, though he certainly had a chameleon-type quality, but because ten years at the top is almost bound to throw up shifts of emphasis and direction.
Theresa May is a much easier politician to assess in that she has only made three wide-ranging political speeches outside her former departmental brief – her Parliamentary stage campaign launch speech, her membership stage campaign launch speech and her address to this site’s conference in 2013. The extract which opens this article is taken from the second and is her most important statement on housing to date.
As this site has previously reported, Sajid Javid’s mission as Communities Secretary is precisely “to do far more to get more houses built”. But how? The last Queen’s Speech contained a Housing Bill that will “extend Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants; require councils to sell vacant, high value council houses; reform planning to improve neighbourhood plans and require councils to support self-builders; introduce a statutory register of brownfield land; and deliver the discount Starter Homes scheme.”
How much planning reform will there be – in this Bill or perhaps in another? Will Javid follow the path set out on this site by Alex Morton, who has focused on fixing the present structures rather then creating new ones? Will he concentrate on brownfield?
Or will he undertake a more ambitious programme involving more building on greenfield, chivvying councils more intensely about local plans, and getting government to release more of the land that it owns? Will he incentivise builders who hang on to land rather than build on it not to do so? How will he try to get more smaller builders in to the market? What will he seek to do with what’s left of Help to Buy?
On this site last weekend, David Skelton championed a plan whereby government would build “a new generation of low-rent homes, with a fast track to home ownership”. ConservativeHome certainly wants to see councils, housing associations and other registered social landlords building new homes for sale.