Guest blog by David Davis MP
David Davis has brought together politicians from across the Conservative Party to call on the chancellor to invest in social housing at the upcoming budget. This is another clear example of the growing cross-party consensus on the issue, and an important milestone. The letter appeared exclusively in The Sun on the 9th of March along with the following piece by David Davis where he makes his case for social housing to the government.
Although I started life as a working-class son of a single mother, I believe I have been incredibly lucky, with several British institutions giving me a helping hand to achieve success in life.
Education played a big part of that, but the stability provided by my family securing a council house when I was growing up was invaluable in allowing me to focus on getting ahead in life.
Before my family were offered our council house in South West London we were living in very poor conditions, like many other families at the time. The council house we were allocated offered a new beginning for me and my family. It offered a launchpad from which we could build our lives, careers and education.
Many young people today are not so lucky. On housing we have taken a step back, generationally. Whereas my family could be certain of a secure home with a rent we could afford, too many young people today will never know what a stable foundation like that can do for them.
A proper home lets people get on with their lives – get their children into a good school, start their own business, become involved in the local community. These are great British traits that the Conservative party should be fighting for every day.
After all, we created Right-to-Buy which has been a great source of stability and mobility for millions, and a great triumph of conservative values. However, we now need to reorient the policy so that the great opportunities we continue to offer to people with Right-to-Buy are more than matched by building new social housing to replace what we sell. This is important if we want to give more people the same chance I had.
Shelter recently found there was a net loss of 17,000 council houses last year as a result of demolitions and properties sold off through Right-to-Buy. This is happening while thousands of hard-working families sit on social housing waiting lists, desperate for a shot at the stability they cannot find anywhere else.
Runaway house prices mean owning your own home has become a distant dream for many lower paid workers – receptionists, hospital porters, teaching assistants. These hard-working people still deserve a secure home, an opportunity that is simply not available to many in today’s society. In the last 15 years alone house prices in England have grown at twice the pace of wages. The average home increased in value by 66% between 2004 and 2019, while wages only grew by 35%.
Investing in social housing should be a deeply conservative ideal. It gives people a platform on which to build their lives, to progress and to grow. It is an essential element of a society that values social mobility.
After all, it was a Conservative led council in Liverpool that built the first ever council house as far back as 1869.
At last year’s General Election people up and down the country, many from poorer backgrounds and living in social housing, put their trust in the Conservative Party to deliver for them.
If our policies simply continue to provide only expensive new builds for the already well off, and almost unaffordable rents for the rest, then people might be left wondering if that trust was misplaced.
By building up our nation’s social housing and ensuring there is sufficient stock of affordable homes, we can give people a chance of a good home and deliver on our promises of fairness and aspiration.
There is a world of difference between my childhood home and the grim high rises that have come to define social housing for many today. But done right, new social housing can create thriving community hubs; minimise crime; and be as appealing as new garden villages and towns. You need only got to look at Goldsmiths Street, the award-winning new development in Norwich, to know this vision is achievable.
But warm words alone won’t build good quality, affordable homes. We need money to build, and this year’s budget is a chance to signal the Party is serious about tackling housing inequality head on. I’ve led a group of 27 fellow Conservative MPs from across the country to call on the Chancellor to let our voters know who’s side we are on.
Many of us have felt the benefits of social housing in our own lives and we want the next generation to have the same shot at success we did. I hope our new Chancellor listens to our call in his budget.
This is a guest blog and does not not necessarily represent the views of Shelter.