Sajid Javid is among a number of Tories who are set to stand down at the next election. He joined other former housing secretaries and ministers in criticising Britain’s housebuilding record. Image: Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street
Four former Tory housing ministers have backed a report criticising Britain’s housebuilding record despite previously being responsible for tackling the country’s housing crisis.
Sajid Javid, Brandon Lewis, Kit Malthouse and Simon Clarke have all had spells in charge as either housing secretary or housing minister since the Tories came to power in 2010.
All four have endorsed a new report from the right-leaning think tank Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), which found around 1.5 million homes have been built per decade in the 2000s and 2010s. That figure is way down on the 3.6 million homes built in the 1960s despite higher population growth in recent years.
“For decades, we have simply not built enough homes,” said Javid, who was housing secretary from July 2016 to April 2018 – one of nine appointments to the role in 13 years.
“This failure risks creating a generation that, without any capital of its own, becomes resentful of capitalism and capitalists. This important report presents a clear analysis of the core challenges we face, and how elected officials can and must rise to them.”
The 2019 Conservative manifesto promised 300,000 homes would be built every year by the mid-2020s. The target has proven controversial – Liz Truss described housing targets as “Stalinist” on the prime ministerial campaign trail – but the Tories are yet to come close to hitting that figure.
Both Brandon Lewis and Kit Malthouse – two of the 14 housing ministers who have been in the role in the last 13 years – looked to the nation’s children with their endorsement of the report.
Lewis, housing minister between July 2014 and July 2016, said: “I firmly believe that the Conservative Party has always been the party of housing, recognising the importance of home ownership, as well as the enormous contributions the construction and housebuilding industry make towards our GDP. We must keep on building.
“We owe it to our children to ensure they can have the same opportunities as previous generations.”
Kit Malthouse, housing minister for the Tories between 2018 and 2019, added: “We should all be concerned about where and how our children are going to live, but more than this, we also have a duty to give them the same or a better chance at homeownership as their parents and grandparents.”
Simon Clarke, who was housing secretary for just under two months during Liz Truss’ ill-fated spell as prime minister, described the report as a “hugely important and timely paper”.
CPS, which was founded by former prime minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1970s, found house-building failures have played a role in a 207 per cent house price rise over the last 50 years.
Researchers argued that prices have risen fastest where supply and demand are most imbalanced. House prices have risen by almost 130 per cent in London since 2004, compared to a rise of 50 per cent in the north-east of England over the same period.
Other countries, such as France and the Netherlands, have built more homes and have seen slower price rises, the think tank added.
A failure to build has also seen rents climb as a share of income. Renters between the 1960s and 1980s generally spent around 10 per cent of their income on housing, up to 15 per cent in London. Now renters are paying around 30 per cent of their income to cover housing costs while in London that figure is almost 40 per cent.
The report calls on politicians to stop assuming that new homes are unpopular or worry that new homes might push up house prices.
CPS researchers also take aim at housing “myths”, insisting that building homes on previously developed brownfield land or existing planning permissions will not deliver enough homes.
The report found cities like London and Bristol could build just under a quarter of the homes they need over the next 15 years on currently existing brownfield sites while many rural areas have almost no brownfield.
Elizabeth Dunkley, CPS researcher and co-author of the report, said: “Our report makes clear one simple, indisputable fact: that Britain needs to build more houses, in the places where people want them. To do otherwise is to court economic, social and increasingly political disaster.
“The case for house-building is simple – without it Britain will be a less productive, less equal, less fair and less happy country. Building more homes is the clearest way to boost economic growth and rebuild our economy.”
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