Britain is facing a national emergency in housing. Millions of people are living in fear and desperation without a secure, affordable place to call home. This fear is tearing communities apart and creating a more polarised society where the lucky few are the only people who can afford to own such a basic commodity.
People need homes to give them the foundation for prosperity in their lives. Homes are, quite literally, the safe roof over our heads which give us security in our lives, making access to housing fundamental to our liberty, prosperity and hopes for the future.
Yet for decades we have seen a housing crisis grow as successive Governments have ignored the severe undersupply of homes our country faces.
This has left people needing help urgently, making the current legislation passing through Parliament even more important. However the Housing and Planning Bill is only going to make things worse, as once again the Tories are choosing to turn their backs on the vast majority who need help. When the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron calls this Bill an "all-out assault on social and affordable housing" he couldn't be closer to the truth. What we are seeing is a Bill which will strengthen the hand of the better-off who benefit from home ownership, whilst at the same time constricting the supply of new, and critically, affordable homes to rent. When the current average house price is 7 times that of the average person's income, and predicted to rise further by 17% of the next 5 years, we cannot continue to tinker at the edges.
The housing shortage cannot be addressed with short-term planning. It requires a long-term proposal for tackling the huge shortfall of homes which has led to the current Government calling for a target figure of 1 million new homes by 2020. The Government has failed to present any long term plan to meet this target, which is why we the Liberal Democrats have decided to allocate our Opposition Debate Day this afternoon to state our proposals to give everyone a decent, affordable home to live in.
We are calling for 300,000 new homes to be built a year through plans which would include the development of 10 new Garden Cities in England, including a belt of cities spreading from Oxford to Cambridge. This would provide hubs for businesses and communities who would be connected by a new railway, linking these two important cities together.
To help provide capital for this increase in housing production, we believe that a Government-backed housing investment bank to simplify the allocation of public funds and provide funding on the scale needed to draw in private investment needs to be implemented.
Furthermore, we want to give greater freedom to local councils by removing the borrowing cap to allow them to build more homes. In London alone, according to the LGA, this would lead to an extra 80,000 homes in only 4 years.
The Liberal Democrats know that to fight climate change we need to be producing sustainable homes. That's why I'm proud to say that my local Lib Dem run council in Sutton is leading the way and working with developers to enable zero carbon homes to be offered through the Sutton Decentralised Energy Network which will capture heat from waste incineration to heat homes locally.
To address the scandal of homes sitting empty, the Lib Dems are also calling for local authorities to attach planning conditions to new developments to ensure homes are occupied. Finally, to help those who desperately need help the most, the homeless, we are calling for a cross-party national strategy to combat homelessness by 2020; at the same time we are campaigning on the issue of social rent reductions on funding for homeless shelters.
Over the next few years the Liberal Democrats will be the party which will lead the way on helping our country address its desperate need for housing. Enough is enough and other parties have let down our country too many times. Only the Lib Dems have an innovative and holistic approach to saving communities across the country from being tore apart by the Conservative's agenda to make home ownership a prize for the precious few and denied to the many. This afternoon in the Commons our proposals will be presented but today is only the beginning of a long campaign where the Lib Dems will show how we can deliver homes for our citizens.
Tom Brake is the Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton & Wallington
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