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Former Housing Secretary: ‘It’s un-Conservative to not build homes’

A former Housing Secretary has outlined why the Conservative Party mustn’t abandon its commitment to housebuilding.

It comes as some 47 Conservative MPs are reported to have signed an amendment to the Levelling Up Bill which would ban mandatory housing targets in England.

Simon Clarke said on Twitter yesterday: “If you want to see what the future of the Conservatives is when we don’t build homes, look at London.  Our collapsing vote in the capital is at least in part because you can’t make the case for popular Conservatism if you can’t afford to buy, or even rent.


“The flip side, why can we win in areas like Teesside?  It’s at least in part because if you are a nurse or a teacher, you can still afford a proper family home.  This isn’t rocket science - it’s economics and politics 101.”

He said there are important debates about the type of homes and the incentives for communities to support new developments, adding: “Our inability to build homes is a politically-driven problem and not inevitable.

“We also have to recognise this is an issue where Conservatives bear a heavy responsibility.  Politicians of all parties play games with this.  But we are meant to be the party of opportunity, and we are pulling up the ladder for everyone under 40.”

The National Association of Property Buyers (NAPB) said the growing threat of a backbench rebellion over the issue has come “at the worst possible time" and called for the Government to "stop squabbling and start building."  

Jonathan Rolande, spokesperson for the NAPB, said: “This is the last thing the property market needs right now. There’s enough uncertainty and concern over house prices and the lack of available homes.

“What we need is a clear plan for house building which will put us on a path to better supporting those who rightly want to own an affordable property. We’d urge Ministers to stop squabbling, start building and focus on solving the house supply crisis as soon as possible.

"We've seen a conveyor belt of Housing Ministers come and go in recent years, and at times it has been hard to keep up. I feel that in Michael Gove that we now have a potentially really good Minister in place, but he needs to be able to get on and deliver."

Rolande said local authorities need to be given more powers to build on brownfield sites, adding: “There are around 160,000 acres of these – especially those over which the council has some control. Building varied housing on these sites would relieve much of the pressure being felt in the property market. 

“However, because of worsening market conditions and higher borrowing costs, we will begin to see private developers hold back on building until things look economically brighter, making the problem worse. 
“A council and government-backed house building programme would be a solution, albeit a tricky one politically.”

His comments came as the Government looks set to delay a vote on its house building plans amid the threat of a backbench rebellion.

Some 47 Conservative MPs have signed an amendment to the Levelling Up Bill which would ban mandatory housing targets in England.

The vote had been due to come on the second day of the bill's report stage, which is scheduled for Monday, but government sources have cited the “congested parliamentary timetable” as reasons why it may be pushed back.

Rolande added: “It is easy to step back and see how this mess has evolved. A blend of nimbyism, environmental concerns and push-back following inappropriate previous developments, have led to a potential impasse.

“Top-down targets are a useful incentive to get things done but may also force the hand of councils to develop where there is legitimate local objection. 

“The problem is, invariably there is local objection in some form to most developments which can block perfectly valid plans. Politicians now have the task of squaring this circle - and they need to get on and do just that.”


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