Grant Shapps is Shadow Housing Minister and Home Truths, his new compilation of speeches outlining Conservative housing policy, can be downloaded via his website.
Last week I debated the future of housing with Minister John Healey at the Home Builders Federation hustings.
In amongst the tired old rhetoric and self-denial about the scale of housing failure was a startling lack of imagination when it came to solutions to our housing problems.
There are three simple facts by which Labour can be judged:
- Fewer homes are being built than in any peacetime year since 1924.
- Last year there were fewer first time buyers than since records began.
- In the last 13 years the social housing waiting list has almost doubled to 1.8 million families.
There’s a housing crisis of epic proportions and yet Labour’s ninth housing minister can’t bring himself to admit that they’ve been caused by the headline-grabbing, but utterly ineffective, top-down, Soviet-style housing targets. They’re not delivering and they’re hindering progress by ensuring that local communities feel backed into a corner and say no to new build.
Over the past few years I’ve travelled round the country to discover what is really going on with housing in Britain today. Then, over the past few months, I have made a series of speeches outlining how a Conservative government would do things very differently.
This week I have published these ideas in a new pamphlet called Home Truths. It describes how a Conservative Government would smash the housing status quo; how we will create a radical new housing model that empowers and incentivises communities and that, crucially, understands human nature.
First we’ll introduce a set of compelling financial incentives designed to ensure that when new development takes place, it will be local people who benefit. Council Tax will be matched on a pound for pound basis for six years on all new homes. And because we realise that business and industry are needed to flourish alongside new build we’ll offer a Business Rate Bonus allowing areas to keep the business rate uplift when more firms set up shop locally.
By scrapping the Government’s centrally-dictated density targets, we’ll ensure that the right type of new homes are built where they’re needed, ending the Prescott-inspired glut of one and two-bedroom flats.
Through this overhaul of the house-building system, supply will increase in the areas that need it most. And since we also appreciate how important first-time buyers are to the market, it’s vital that they are supported wherever possible. So we’ll scrap Stamp Duty on their first home purchase up to £250,000, removing nine out of ten first-time buyers from paying any stamp duty at all.
And to help those who already have a home and want to sell it, we will scrap the ludicrous, and expensive, Home Information Pack, freeing people up to put their homes on the market without having to stump up hundreds of pounds first.
Our housing policies are setting the pace, rebooting the current system. Proposals to enable social housing tenants to move home more easily and to set up businesses; the green deal that will allow home-owners to environmentally improve their homes with no up front cost; Local Housing Trusts that give rural communities the power to grant themselves planning permission; the list goes on.
We get how and why people react, we understand the needs of communities across the country and we are challenging the entire housing industry to think differently.
These aren’t timid ideas which limit aspiration; instead they represent a set of truly radical proposals and real change. Today we have a Government in denial, clinging on to failed old policies; yet in order to build the country’s future, we need a completely new housing model.