The Conservatives face a “real risk” they will lose a generation of voters over a lack of house building, according to one of their own former housing ministers.
Speaking to the Politics Hub with Sophy Ridge, Sir Brandon Lewis explained why he is using his time as a backbencher to encourage the building of more homes.
He served as housing minister between 2014 and 2016, and was a cabinet minister under Boris Johnson before leaving government when Mr Johnson’s ministry collapsed.
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Sir Brandon was asked by Ridge if the Conservative Party is at risk of “losing a generation of voters” if they do not build more houses.
He said: “I think there is a real risk, because why would a young person look to the Conservative Party? What is the economic offer?
“When I was young, you wanted to grow up and own your own home – we know for a fact the majority of people in this country want to own their own home if they don’t already.
“So I think we’ve always been the party of homeownership – I think we should be the party of homeownership.
“That means we need to build houses.
“And I would argue of all tenures, affordable, social, private, rented, and that creates more ability for people to then own their own home as well.”
He said his views were backed up by polling commissioned by the Adam Smith Institute thinktank, which suggested 77% of people think there is a housing crisis. Younger people were more likely to think there was a crisis, the research found.
The polling was carried out by JL Partners, who spoke to 1,001 members of the public and 1,000 mortgage holders between 4 August and 11 August.
Sir Brandon said he has been “very open” about calling for more housing, telling Ridge that his party needs “to do more”.
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The issue is a battleground between the government and the Conservative Party itself – nationally, the government wants houses, but plans struggle to get approved by councillors and MPs often oppose building in their area – groups sometimes called “not in my back yard” or NIMBYs.
Last year, Housing Secretary Michael Gove watered down the government’s 300,000 homes-per-year target following pressure from backbench Conservative MPs.
And earlier this year, Rishi Sunak was accused of ditching his party’s national housebuilding targets to please party members.
Mr Gove announced plans to ease developments on brownfield sites over the summer – but it is not clear if this will get the government to meet another target of building a million homes between 2019 and the next election.
Sir Brandon told Ridge that, having served as a councillor, he knows the “most impactful thing” a politician can get from a constituent is a planning application “people don’t like”.
He argued that the government needs to create “a planning system that’s efficient and effective, gives local people a voice, but also is able to engage with local people about the advantages and the necessity of housing”.
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He also argued that, when he was housing minister, he was told of the economic benefits of building more houses.
“100,000 homes build is worth at least 1% of GDP, depending on how you calculate supply lines – maybe 3%, you could argue – of GDP,” he said.
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