Joe Armitage is Chairman of Medway Conservative Future
and Deputy Chairman (Political), Rochester East Conservatives. He’s also
on a gap year interning for a Conservative MP. Follow him on Twitter.
Property is a key tenet of our ideology. We encourage respect for other people’s property, since a country of property owners understands the preciousness of a home. It is also a sign of individuality, allowing people to leave their mark on the world by expressing their own tastes both internally and externally. Most importantly, however, it allows people to feel both rooted and belonging in society. In recent decades, however, property ownership has been afforded to too few, and I believe the Right to Buy needs reviving.
Many people wrongly believe Beveridge coined the phrase “From cradle to grave” but it was, in fact, Sir Winston Churchill. I too believe in this concept but it shouldn’t be through hand-outs but hand-ups. There is no better way to alleviate the financial difficulty of a person than to subsidise their purchase of a social house.
Many people who are employed are also claiming income support to enable them to rent a property. Renting is now more expensive than a mortgage. Subsidised home ownership will save the tax payer money in the long run in three ways. First, mortgages are cheaper per month, and so many people would not need monthly hand outs to fill the pockets of a landlord. Second, to claim unemployment benefits you cannot have assets of £16,000 or more, so people would only resort to welfare if absolutely necessary, only after using any equity in their home. Third, property is your first welfare net: it can go towards paying for your care in your old age – something that is becoming increasingly burdensome for the state.
Recently, the left have talked about how those renting private properties are guilty of execrable avarice by charging their occupants ‘unjust’ amounts. However, the high price for privately rented properties cannot be attributed solely to greed. The left revel at the prospect of a pernicious class war by comparing today’s landlords to archaic feudal landed lords but we should not let them. The fact is that Britain is not building houses, yet demand for housing is increasing at an unprecedented rate, therefore it is inevitable that rental prices are going up as demand increases.
What’s exacerbating the problem even more, however, is the difficultly of building or planning to build housing. It cannot be right that 35% of all green belt land in England is in the East, South East and London – the very parts of the country where there’s a dire need for housing! The older generations need to stop making such a fuss about their precious scenery and let us younger ones get our foot on the ladder. The average age of a first time buyer is 37 according to the Intergenerational Foundation, the ramifications of that are huge: the average person won’t be able to start a family or have enough disposable income to put in for a pension.
Planning laws also need reform, and it is good some action is being taken by the Government in this area. It cannot be fair that local authorities are denying people the right to build small-scale extensions on their homes. Municipal red tape has to be cut so people can expand their houses to accommodate more people and strengthen homeowners’ rights, while also supporting small traders. Families may need extensions to accommodate their family and arduously long-drawn-out planning decisions aren’t helping.
To make people less dependent on the state throughout their lives, allowing some to purchase social housing at a subsidised rate is the best means. The billions necessary to build more social housing will be well spent, and owning a home makes the individual responsible for own their welfare, not the state. This country needs a nation of responsible citizens again and allowing people to purchase a social house is the greatest form of welfare conceivable.