Draft text of the speech - may differ from the delivered version.
Thank you to Robert Peto for your very kind introduction and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors for hosting this event this morning.
Last time I was here as Shadow Minister to launch a collection of my speeches.
Old habits die hard - in a speech last week I made the mistake of calling myself the Shadow Housing Minister.
As one of my staff cruelly pointed out - “Minister, you spent longer as a shadow than Cliff Richard!”
But I’m finally here and it’s great to be able to talk to you today on a subject I am passionate about.
Something that is at the heart and soul of this Government - aspiration.
Now, my predecessor famously said that falling levels of home ownership were ‘not such a bad thing’.
I’ve asked RICS to host this event to make clear from the outset that I believe that home ownership is a very good thing.
In fact I will work every day to help people achieve their aspirations to own their home.
Of course I am not arguing that everyone should somehow aspire to home ownership.
Renting a home can be a positive and flexible choice.
And social housing provides a sense of security for millions of families.
I am simply saying to those who aspire to own their own home -
- This Government will support you
- You will not be ignored
- The age of aspiration is back!
There are an estimated 1.4 million households who aspire to own a home but are unable to do so because of house prices and mortgage availability.
There are hundreds of thousands of people in rented accommodation, or living with parents, who yearn to be first time buyers.
It is now true that the average age of first time buyer (with no support from their family) is 37.
Now that 37 year old is not asking for a hand-out they just want a chance.
We need to give them that opportunity.
Sound economic management
The best thing we can do for the all-important First Time Buyer is to get the economy back onto a sound footing.
This Coalition is prepared to take the tough decisions needed to make that happen.
The Prime Minister said yesterday that his number one priority is to deal with the country’s massive deficit.
As he put it; if we don’t, we run the risk of much higher interest rates. But it’s not just that they will be higher:
It’s that they’ll climb faster - and further - and sooner and stay high for longer - if we don’t act immediately.
We’ve made a good start with over £6 billion in savings for this year. George Osborne is sending a strong signal to the markets that we’re very serious about tackling head on the huge financial challenges we face.
We will need to work together across the housing market - builders and surveyors, lenders and brokers, Regulators and agents - to ensure that the conditions which created the housing bubbles of the past are never repeated.
But there are still difficult adjustments to be made and I know that market confidence remains fragile.
There is a risk that the market may not respond to changing conditions quickly enough, leaving creditworthy borrowers still out in the cold.
I see responsible lending and responsible borrowing as two sides of the same coin.
Borrowers will need to demonstrate financial responsibility and show that they can sustain homeownership.
In return lenders will need to support creditworthy homeowners. I know the housing market is still fragile but we in Government will do all we can to help.
We’ve already taken quick and decisive action to make HIPs history.
Expensive and bureaucratic Home Information Packs increased the cost and hassle of selling homes. We have ripped up red-tape that was strangling the Housing Market recovery.
A move that has already started to have an impact - the number of homes coming to market immediately jumping by a third.
The Coalition Government has also agreed to promote shared ownership schemes and help social tenants and others to own or part-own their home.
But if we are really serious about supporting people’s aspiration for home ownership, the real prize is we must build more homes.
In that booklet of speeches I launched here earlier this year, I sympathised with my predecessors in this job, saying:
Ordered to deliver 3m homes by 2020 - it was just a race against time for this week’s hapless housing minister to make something … anything …happen … before the inevitable reshuffle.
So higher targets … louder diktats … a bigger stick and more legislation to create strange sounding Quangos designed to deliver on the Government’s housing targets … RSS’s … the HCA … RDAs … EEDA … SEDA … EERA … NERA.
As the latest housing minister pulled the levers of state, he or she pushed the people further away.
And now, I am that Minister with my hand on the levers.
And I’m determined to deliver.
So in place of those meaningless targets - we will introduce powerful incentives.
In place of centralisation - I will devolve power.
In place of expensive Quangos - we will trust people.
I’m going to release those centralised levers that don’t work anyway - and as I do, I am certain an extraordinary thing will happen.
The more power we give away - the more people will act to generate real change.
For the first time incentives will create direct benefits for local communities. Bringing jobs, investment and yes - more homes for local people.
Rather than being told what to build and where - residents of villages, towns and cities will be able to develop their own vision for their place.
We’ll introduce Local Housing Trusts. Enabling communities to create new housing for local people.
We understand that the transition to a more open, transparent and democratic planning system is not entirely anxiety-free for many involved.
But we know that there is no future in this centrally planned system which has so dramatically failed, delivering fewer homes now than during any peacetime year since 1924.
By unleashing the aspirations of communities as well as individuals to build homes where and when they are needed, we will bring about greater certainty.
Certainty that will replace the conflict caused by imposing housing numbers from right here in Whitehall.
Certainty that will give investors confidence to invest.
The last thing we need is a return to the house price boom and bust of recent years.
Falling prices are bad for homeowners and builders alike, whilst soaring prices freeze out first time buyers.
So, we need to build more homes and entrench sensible lending practices so that, in the long run, houses will become more affordable.
That’s our aim: a stable housing market that gives both home buyers and builders a solid base to invest for the future.
Homeownership has provided personal and financial security to millions of people in the UK, including (I am almost certain) the majority of this audience.
I do not believe that it is right to deny the benefits of homeownership, that we have enjoyed, to the next generation.
And this new Government is not in the business of pouring cold water on people’s aspirations.
Of course I know many analysts predict further short or medium-term falls in homeownership.
And given the appalling financial legacy left to us - they could be right.
But it is not good enough to simply say “this may be a good thing.”
I believe that it is human nature to aspire to shelter and security - and for the many that means owning the roof over your own head.
And I don’t consider it my job as Housing Minister to hold those aspirations back.
With a new Government and despite the enormous financial difficulties the country faces I want to state clearly today:
“The Age of Aspiration is back.”