Ed Miliband's bold declaration of war on housing shortages in the UK is his latest in a series of moves to win the young vote. And what's more, it might just work.
Housing is arguably the biggest issue for today's young. Quite simply there are not enough homes out there, particularly in urban areas and London in particular. As a result prices are too high, first time mortgages impossible and rents (the only other option) unaffordable. At the same time, young people are feeling the fall in real wages far more than other demographics. According to Resolution Foundation report, workers in their 20s are paid 12 per cent less than they were in 2008, far outweighing the average figure of 8.1% across all ages.
As Miliband identifies, house shortages are bad news all round for the UK. From a purely economic perspective - if young people can't get a foothold in cities, businesses are denied access to their life-blood, threatening growth. On a socio-economic level, young people have the bulk of their disposable income drained by high rents and mortgages , reducing their personal expenditure to the detriment of the wider economy.
Following initial housing announcements in September and December last year, Miliband this month declared he plans to launch huge new building schemes on the scale of Milton Keynes, just as the Office for National Statistics revealed the average UK house price has hit £250,000 for the first time.
As well as large projects, Miliband has also promised to reduce the red tape stifling construction and ensure reforms are passed to give Brits a first option on purchases - keeping new homes from wealthy foreigners, another growing issue in London.
From his own perspective, Miliband has identified an area where he can make a play for an electorate still very much up for grabs ahead of the 2015 election. The truth is, most Millennials are disenchanted with the entrenched political parties.
Last year's British Social Attitudes survey showed most young people are no longer interested in politics. Among 18-24 year olds, less than 50 per cent voted in the 2010 general election, with fewer than half of that age group feeling it is a public duty to vote. Barely a third of this demographic has much interest in politics while only 60 per cent identify with a political party. Compare these figures to those over 65 years old - more than two-thirds voted in 2010 and three-quarters identify with a political party.
It is in these figures that Miliband has no doubt identified an opportunity. Reversing young people's disinterest could reap rewards at a 2015 election getting tighter by the day, if polls are to be believed. Despite occasional loud noises on youth unemployment, the Conservative Party continue to prioritise its 45-75 year-old sweet spot. The Liberal Democrats, which used to appeal strongly to young voters, has failed to recover from reversing its promises on tuition fees at the dawn of the coalition.
With the Lib Dems fall from grace well documented, it's strange that one of the other established parties hasn't made a move for its former supporters sooner. Despite Ed Miliband and his party spending much of the last few years struggling for an identity, they may just have stumbled across one by standing for the interests of the young.Suggest a correction