The Tories Showed Last Night That They Just Don't Get It on Home-ownership

10/05/2016 08:09 | Updated 10 May 2016

Conservative Ministers like to talk tough on home-ownership. They say they're pulling out all the stops to boost the number of home-owners.

But the hard truth is that after six years in office, the number of home-owners has plummeted.

Under Labour in government between 1997 and 2010 a million more families became home-owners. Since 2010, the number of home-owners has fallen by over 200,000, with the number of young people under 35 owning a home down by a third of a million.

This is a dismal record for those of us who want to spread the benefits of ownership. And it's a political disaster for the Tories which shows their six years of failure on housing is wider than soaring homelessness and rising rents.

This failure comes despite a blinkered focus on ownership which has meant a huge loss of genuinely affordable rented homes. The Chartered Institute of Housing say 370,000 social rented homes will be lost by 2020, while Shelter estimate 180,000 as a result of the government's Housing and Planning Bill alone.

The country needs a balanced long-term plan for housing, building more homes of all types - including more genuinely affordable homes to rent. In the Autumn I set out how a future Labour government could treble the number of new council and housing association homes to 100,000 a year.

But we're also determined to reverse the decline in home-ownership. Home-ownership is in crisis because what used to be a natural part of growing up is becoming a luxury for those on the highest salaries, or whose parents have the deepest pockets.

The Tories just don't grasp that it's families and young people on ordinary incomes who need a hand up in buying a home of their own. This is why their home-ownership policies are missing the mark.

The latest 'help-to-buy' figures show that thousands of people earning over £100,000 a year benefit from public support and government policies that Ministers claim are designed to help struggling first-time buyers

Independent experts from Savills to Shelter agree new government 'starter homes' at up to £450,000 will still be unaffordable for most, despite substantial public subsidy. Across England, prospective buyers will need a household income of £50,000 and in London, it could be as high as £100,000.

Meanwhile, the number of homes for low-cost ownership has fallen by 28% since I was Labour's last Housing Minister in 2010. And last night, in debate on the Housing Bill, Ministers voted down a vital Labour-backed amendment to allow more low-cost home ownership homes, like shared ownership.

Labour would take a different approach, with our priority to help those on ordinary incomes.

We know that we can't tackle wealth inequality if we don't make access to housing more equal - the topic of my recent lecture at Mansfield College, Oxford. And we know can't reach out to young people and families on middle incomes without giving them hope and help to get on and buy a home.

This is why I've set up the first major review into home-ownership in over a decade - the Redfern Review - and it's why Labour MPs last night voted against government plans to restrict the supply of affordable homes to buy.

Our record is clear, and so is our intent. Labour is the party of home-ownership.

John Healey is the shadow housing minister and Labour MP for Wentworth & Dearne