To prove they have listened to voters in the weeks after the general election, the Government should scrap the green belt rather than increase public spending, says Rory Broomfield.
A Number 10 source yesterday said that the government was going to “listen to the messages that were sent at the election” and that “[the government] understands that people are weary after years of hard work to re-build the economy”. What he didn’t accept is that Number 10 has come up with the wrong solution.
The message sent by voters (especially young) was not that they were weary of austerity, but that they are tired of not having opportunities.
This is seen no more acutely in the area of housing where “Generation Rent” are increasingly unable to get onto the housing ladder.
With house prices still increasing at a rate that is outstripping wage growth, my generation are frustrated that they are unable to afford anywhere to buy. It means that the average first-time buyer in the UK is now going to be in their 30s, possibly waiting a decade longer than their parents would have done in the 1960s to leave the family home and become independent.
It translates to millions of people being unable to settle – unable to realise their dreams.
This problem is a chronic one and, with the population increasing due to good health and immigration, the difference between supply and demand of houses is growing – compounding both the problem and the frustration.
It means that the Conservative Party needs to have a rethink on policy.
Having accepted that their manifesto was unpopular with young people and that it didn’t effectively address the issue at hand on housing, the government needs to change its approach to provide opportunities akin to Margaret Thatcher’s “Right to Buy”.
In freeing up the UK’s planning laws to allow areas to expand, new towns to be built and new homes to be provided on green belt land, there wouldn’t just be the increased opportunity to buy a house and make a home but also the opportunity to buy a better house that meets, unlike tower blocks across the UK, basic living standards.
Even better still, by also giving the opportunities for businesses to expand and / or relocate on current green belt land, the Conservative Party would be freeing people to create a better life for themselves and their family as well.
The good news is that it seems to be going in that direction. In November last year, the Local Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, said that government “should not stand in the way” of councils who propose green belt development.
The problem seems to be getting councils to allow for this to happen. For this, the Conservative Party as a whole needs to wake up and articulate, both from the top and the bottom of the party, the need to free up land.
This is a problem that can be solved both at the local and the national level. It just needs the desire to do it. If both Ministers and local councillors within the Conservative Party adopted a clear agenda of opening up the green belt to development, then they won’t just solve the chronic problem of housing but will be popular as well.