One of Theresa May’s ministers has admitted that Britain’s housing crisis is so dire that young Britons have to wait for their parents “to die” before they can get on the property ladder.
Housing minister Kit Malthouse made the remark at a fringe meeting at the Tory party conference, as he tried to set out how the Government aimed to hit its target to build 300,000 homes a year.
“Something has gone wrong when your kids have to wait for you to die before they can get on the property ladder,” he said.
The frank admission emerged as the Prime Minister, who said last year that she would “dedicate my premiership to fixing this problem”, is expected to use her keynote conference speech on Wednesday to unveil fresh plans to tackle the issue.
Malthouse told HuffPost UK: “My remark was meant to be a lively illustration of the essence of the problem.
“Everyone accepts that the housing market is not working for everybody and this is the product of decades of neglect. We are taking vigorous and assertive action to correct that.”
A source close to Malthouse said the line was a ‘throwaway’ comment.
But Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey was quick to pounce.
“Last year Theresa May admitted housing was a big part of why her Party did so badly in the Election and she pledged she’d make housing the defining personal mission of her premiership,” he said.
“A year later her own housing minister has let the cat out of the bag - under the Tories your kids have to wait for you to die before they can get on the housing ladder.
“The public have seen eight years of failure on housing under the Tories. Homelessness has risen every year and one million fewer under 45s now own their home than in 2010. Millions of young people have seen the dream of home-ownership die under this Tory Government.”
Home ownership fell to a 30-year low in England last year, official figures revealed.
Just 31 per cent of 25-29 year-olds now own their own property, down dramatically from 63% cent a quarter of a century ago.
Malthouse, who has been in post for less than three months, is a former deputy mayor of London under Boris Johnson and has been an MP since 2015.
He made his remarks at a fringe meeting in Birmingham hosted by online mortgage broker Trussle.
James Murray, Deputy London Mayor for housing and residential development, told the same meeting that at present 80% of newly built homes are affordable to only 8% of London renters.
Ishaan Malhi, Trussle founder and CEO, added: “Many young people struggle to get on the ladder and still not enough is being done from the self-employed perspective.
“Some people can afford the actual mortgage payments, but it’ll take them an average of nineteen years to save up the deposit. Everyone should be able to dream of owning a home. But with homes increasingly unaffordable and mortgages not easily accessible, home ownership is become more difficult for the current generation.”
Malthouse attracted controversy within days of his appointment when it emerged that he had once admitted he pioneered a council policy to make life “more uncomfortable” for rough sleepers.
As deputy leader of Westminster Council in 2004, he operated a hostile “zero tolerance” drive by the local authority to move homeless people on from the wealthy area’s streets.
“We certainly instituted a policy of making life - it sounds counterintuitive and cruel - more uncomfortable; that is absolutely right,” he told the London Assembly in 2008.
He acknowledged that it was an “awful” thing to say, but added: “There were, at the time, plenty, well-funded - we managed to get quite a lot of funding - night shelters and night centres. The difficulty was getting rough sleepers into those centres.”
But the minister’s free-flowing style is admired by many fellow MPs, and he has made a name for himself for his pithy one-liners on the housing market since taking the job.
His former boss Johnson used his setpiece speech on Tuesday to urge the Government to take on housing developers and Malthouse has been similarly forceful.
“They say dogs can smell fear, well, so can developers,” he has said. Referring to the Government’s National Infrastructure Fund, he has said: “I have £5bn to spend on infrastructure, I’m just looking for eager mouths to stuff with this money, in exchange for building homes.”
He has also ridiculed housing design rules. “If you want to get planning for a house through in a matter of days or even hours, put a thatched roof on it. It will be called an asset to the area.”