The boxed-in generation

Draft text of the speech - may differ from the delivered version. Introduction It’s been a busy morning. They say a week is a long time…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP

Draft text of the speech - may differ from the delivered version.


It’s been a busy morning.

They say a week is a long time in politics and it’s a lesson I’ve learnt in recent weeks.

And it’s hard to believe that it’s almost five years since I took on the housing brief, first in opposition and now in Government.

The experience has given me a few insights into this great industry which I thought would be worth sharing today.

The housing paradox

But, first, let me start with a paradox.

In the last decade we built too few homes, far fewer than needed.

House prices soared but, by 2009, house building had fallen to its lowest level since the 1920s.

The noughties was a decade of, I think, missed opportunities.

It wasn’t as if nobody wanted new homes.

You couldn’t turn the telly on without seeing another house related programme: Changing Rooms, Grand Designs, The Restoration Man.

Yet the housing market had ground to a halt.

And I think the problem was clear. Buyers certainly weren’t to blame. It was the system.

You could see the system at work, or perhaps I should say failing to work, in any one of those TV property programmes.

The red tape your sector had to cut its way through. The endless regulations. The interminable delays.

The energy, enthusiasm, determination - dissipated. Willingness to stake out the new property frontiers - simply frustrated.

It was enough to stir up the inner builder in any of us.

Trouble was, in the past, the centre talked a good game but did very little to change the environment.

Building more houses

Now our solution to this housing problem is simple - we’re going to get out there and build more houses. Not talk about it. But actually do it.

We’ve learnt the lessons of the past.

I know Government alone won’t get the market started.

So this will be a team effort.

The NewBuy Guarantee Scheme we’ve just been talking about I think is a case in point.

We’re giving up to 100,000 prospective buyers up to 95 per cent loan to value mortgage to purchase new build properties.

It’s a great idea. And I know you agree. Because you came up with the idea.

Now we’re determined to let you get on with it.

No builders are excluded from NewBuy by design and we won’t intervene in the commercial arrangements of builders and lenders.

With more lenders and builders coming on board, customers will have a wide range of options to choose from when buying their newly-built home.

Just yesterday, in Cambridgeshire, we welcomed the very first buyer to purchase a home through the NewBuy guarantee scheme.

A boxed in generation

Now NewBuy can also help a group of people who’ve often been overlooked.

Traditionally the political debate has focused on the people at the very bottom of the pile and the people at the very top.

But what about those stuck in between?

Those who slip, not so much under the radar, as between it.

Second generation buyers in flats or houses which they have actually grown.

Almost everyone knows someone in that position.

A hardworking person who bought their own home when they were single, maybe met someone, fell in love, and now have a couple of kids.

They expected to trade up.

That’s what every parent would have done after all.

But now they’re boxed in.

Home outgrown.

They don’t have cash to pay for a mortgage three or four times their own salary. Let alone 10 or 20 times.

They face the prospect of being boxed in, in their homes, for up to 25 years or more.

According to HSBC research, of the 360,000 homeowners who bought their first property in 2007, many are trapped in their first home and unable to move up the property ladder.

What does it say about our system that we’ve a generation who feel forgotten?

That nearly a third of parents feel boxed in their homes, unable to live comfortably in a home too small for the needs of their family.

That their children will have moved on before they’ve managed to move out.

We don’t want Britain to be a place of housing have nots.

We want people to have room to grow.

So the NewBuy Guarantee gives second time buyers a second chance.

The boxed in family now gets help.

Help to buy a new build home with the ceiling price set up to a half a million pounds.

So well done.

You’re thinking outside the box.

Rolling back the housing frontier.

And we’re keen to work with the industry in other ways as well.

The lack of sufficient land to build new homes is an enormous drag on housing growth.

So we’re accelerating the release of brownfield Government-owned land to deliver more than 100,000 additional homes.

Working with local authorities

And Government isn’t just working with builders but with local authorities.

Our new Homes Bonus incentivises local authorities to increase their housing stock, bringing more houses back into use, and raising the bar for affordable homes.

Second year payments are going out now and we’re starting to see change on the ground.

When they build extra homes, authorities will now get a bonus to take the strain on their services and infrastructure.

Now these changes will make it easier for communities to accept new housing. As will our plans to improve neighbourhood design.

I want to say more on that in a moment.

Working with communities

Besides local authorities we’re working with communities.

Neighbourhood Planning and the Community Right to Buy will help communities deliver the development that they need.

Now it’s 30 years on from the introduction of Right to Buy. And council tenants are increasingly able to use that purchsing power again.

With a maximum discount now at £75,000 across the country - quadrupling the potential amount available in London and trebling it elsewhere.

With the proceeds, unlike the initial buy, going to build new homes for affordable rent.

Collaboration - the industry and communities

But this isn’t just about Government.

About them and us.

It’s about you.

I want to see the house building industry working hand in glove with local communities.

I know you feel frustrated waiting for the planning green light.

Shovels poised.

Diggers at the ready.

Weeks slowly turning into months.

So we’re helping remedy this situation by providing you with a 12 month planning decision guarantee.

I know this is something you’ll welcome.

But in return there’s something you can do to help us.

You see part of the trouble is local communities sometimes see the plan at the last minute.

It takes them time to get their heads round what’s proposed.

So, in the National Planning Policy Framework, we’re requiring you to consult earlier.

And we’re asking you to think about design.

Now Britain is great at building.

Just a short walk from here is the magnificent Derby House designed by Robert Adam. One of many examples of Britain’s fantastic building heritage.

But if we want great neighbourhoods as well as great buildings we need great designs in order to take our communities with them.

Down in Devon they’ve got the right idea.

Local Totnes residents opposed the developer’s original proposal for a mixed-use residential development on the edge of town.

But working together the council, residents and the local architect devised a fitting alternative.

The door to planning permission was flung open, houses delivered and in hot demand from local buyers.

The lesson is absolutely clear. Great design helps communities accept your work and speed up the system.

Later this year, I’ll be setting out plans to give communities a greater voice and encourage joint working at a Government/Industry Design Summit.

I hope many of you will be involved.


So I’ve given you a flavour of what we’re doing together to build more homes.

We’re already turning things around.

Since 2009 starts are up by 24 per cent.

New housing output is up by 33 per cent.

And new orders up by 35 per cent.

We’re unfreezing the system. But we need you to go even further, faster.

To work with communities to design sustainable local schemes.

To react speedily when freed up land becomes available.

To tell us what else we can do to help, to rip away that red tape.

To usher in a new age of housing.

An age of magnificent homes to match our ambition.

An age that gives a boxed in community, a boxed in generation, finally room to grow once again.

Published 24 April 2012