Housing is not just providing people with safe and comfortable places to live. It is a key indicator of social mobility – the gap between those on the property ladder and those who aren’t. More than this, it is central to people’s aspirations to own a home where they can raise a family.
Currently, too few houses are being built, too many people are unable to afford to buy and too many rogue landlords are exploiting renters. Action has been taken but more needs to be done, and more will be done.
The Government is committed to supporting those who dream of owning their own home. Since 2010, more than 330,000 households have benefited from Help to Buy and Right to Buy schemes. In addition, a historic shortfall saw 75,000 homes started in 2008-9 – the lowest levels since the 1920s. However, thanks to planning reforms and increased investment, over 700,000 homes were added to the market between 2010 and 2015. In Hastings in 2010-11 only 40 homes were completed per year. This has more than trebled to 150 last year. These are welcome improvements but we will go further.
A new £3 billion Home Building Fund will create thousands of jobs and help to build more than 225,000 homes. A £2 billion Accelerate Construction scheme will see government partner with industry to speed-up housebuilding on public land. And, new measures will encourage urban regeneration and construction on brownfield land.
We need a more positive attitude towards homebuilding. We have a responsibility to build houses so future generations enjoy higher social mobility and share in the dream of owning a home. There will always be some planning applications which should be opposed: they may be in the wrong area, there may be insufficient infrastructure to support it, or it may simply be unattractive – unlike the Rye Cinque Ports Street development whose design won a 2016 RIBA award – but we must recognise the need to get building.
But, improving housing is not simply about home ownership. Recently, Hastings has seen a significant increase in private rented sector housing and further support should be given to tenants, including clamping down on rogue landlords. As Home Secretary I recently announced that landlords housing illegal immigrants in appalling conditions will face criminal charges. In addition, the Government has strengthened councils to help end ruthless landlords exploiting tenants. More than £5 million of government funding has seen over 33,000 properties inspected so far this year and nearly 2,800 landlords now facing prosecution. In Hastings, I welcome the council’s March announcement that £122,000 of government funding will assist tackling rogue landlords through initiatives including stronger collaboration with the town’s good landlords and additional support for tenants to report concerns and take legal action. Because let’s not forget the important role of good landlords. They provide vital investment to properties and mostly have very positive relationships with tenants.
It is vital to have an affordable housing market which works for everyone. Steps have been taken but now is the time to do more to ensure that everyone who rents is free from exploitation and as many people as possible share in the dream of ownership. These are goals the Government is pursuing nationally and they are ones I fully support for the residents of Hastings and Rye.