Speech

Home Builders Federation Policy Forum 2016

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis' speech outlines the government's housing aims including its intention to deliver 1 million homes by 2021.

Introduction

Thank you for inviting me here today.

Last week we set out our plans:

  • for an economy set to grow faster than any other major advanced country in the world;

  • for a labour market delivering the highest employment in our history;

  • and for businesses that are creating jobs, and building the infrastructure this country needs.

I don’t need to tell you that the British economy has grown much stronger over the past 6 years.

The extra homes you are building reflect that progress.

And your companies’ reports confirm it.

Economies don’t thrive by accident.

This government confronted our country’s problems.

We made the right judgements and took the difficult decisions.

We had a long term vision, and pursued a long term plan.

Today the deficit is down by two thirds, and is continuing to fall.

And our economy is stronger and more resilient.

Progress on housing

We used the strong economic foundation we established after 2010 to improve the housing market. My job and yours is to make sure that work continues.

Challenge for the future

We all know much more needs to be done to create a housing market that meets peoples’ needs.

That supports aspiration, increases mobility, boosts productivity and helps local economies grow.

Spending Review

In the Spending Review we doubled investment in housing, and set out the largest house building programme for 40 years.

We aim to build a million homes [by 2021] and double the number of first time buyers in this Parliament, continuing work started in 2010.

Some have a questioned our emphasis on affordable home ownership.

But we make no apology for this innovation.

It’s what working people want.

86% of people say they would choose to buy their own property.

And yet the aspiration and reality of home ownership has drifted apart.

Why should we not help make aspiration more affordable?

It’s simply old-fashioned political dogma to insist governments only intervene in the market to support renters, when most people would rather buy.

To persist with this outdated mindset risks creating a generation of young people exiled from homeownership.

Budget measures

Starter Homes / Shared Ownership

We’re committed to building Starter Homes, and in the Budget we set out some of ways we will achieve this.

Councils will shortly be invited to apply for a share of £1.2 billion Starter Homes Land Fund.

To remediate brownfield land so it’s ready for construction, and bring more land into the system

We’ll also publish a new prospectus for the Help to Buy: Shared Ownership scheme for first time buyers, and you’ll soon be to bid for a share of £4 billion to get the work started.

Releasing more land for house building

In the Budget we extended that same support to areas wanting to establish Garden Villages.

Public land

For the first time ever local authorities have committed to an ambition to release public sector land for house building.

Land with capacity for at least 160,000 new homes will be released – matching the central government target.

At the same time the HCA will work with Network Rail and councils to bring forward land around stations for housing, commercial development and regeneration.

And we expect the first sites to be brought forward shortly.

In London we have approved the business case for a new Thameslink station at Brent Cross, paving the way for 7,500 new, and desperately needed, homes in the capital.

We want to release more public land, but we also want to increase transparency across the whole the land market, so we’ll be making it easier to access information on land ownership

Planning

Planning permission was granted for more than a quarter of a million homes last year.

It’s a huge turnaround for the planning system we inherited in 2010, which was in a state of disarray, and a byword for conflict.

Permissions are starting to outstrip construction by some by an ever increasing margin.

And that is an issue that must be addressed.

But we’re always looking for any improvements that can be made.

We’ll be setting statutory deadlines for the Secretary of State’s decisions, and streamlining local plans.

We’ll also explore the scope for more ‘zonal’ plans that send clear signals about development potential and offer permission in principle on identified sites that have the support of local people.

At the same time we want to improve the use of planning conditions to prevent delays getting on site.

For example, ensuring pre-commencement conditions can only be used with the agreement of the developer.

Role of the house building industry

We’ll always look for to make improvements – but the government can’t be the only players in the housing market questioning the way we do things.

Everyone needs to respond to the extraordinary demand for new homes.

And our ambitions for house building will only be achieved if we’re all working towards the same goal.

Government or industry – we will all be judged on our actions, not words.

There is a desperate need for new homes in this country, and a millions of young people who want a home of their own.

We all bear responsibility for supporting their aspirations.

History will not remember us kindly if we allow a generation to face exile from homeownership.

Do we really want our children to be worse off than their parents?

Or feel compelled to leave the communities they love and grew up in?

Forced to decline good job opportunities, and all because local housing is too expensive?

That is bad for our economy, and it’s bad for society.

We have been working with the HBF and will continue to do so in the coming weeks. Industry is equally committed to our goal and I would like to thank everyone at the HBF for their work.

So I would like to finish with a challenge.

To use the long term commitment of the government to boost capacity in your industry:

  • to build out faster;

  • use new technology better;

  • and invest in apprenticeships so you have young people with the right skills to build homes.

Other countries are doing this – there’s no reason why we can’t too.

We need to play our part in the global economy. I fully support the work the Prime Minister has done and is doing in Europe. We need the stability of the EU.

Imports and exports have an effect on house building. Certainty and confidence affect the market.

Help to Buy demonstrates this. It is no co-incidence that our economy grew as house building grew.

Help to Buy gave confidence to buyers and developers. We know that Help to Buy doesn’t affect house prices, but it does impact on supply.

Conclusion

There is still a profound need to build more homes in this country, across all tenures, and support the aspirations of people who want to buy a home.

This will be a defining challenge of our generation, and it’s a prize worth fighting for.

The economic and social legacy will last far beyond any of our lifetimes.

Young people have the same hopes and dreams of past generations, and the same ambitions for the future.

Let’s ensure their hard work can be rewarded with a home of their own.