Robert Jenrick, the new Secretary of State for Housing, wrote a striking call in 2017 to boost home ownership by building homes on government land and selling them at cost to the under-40s of that area. In the South East, that could mean a 75% discount to market price.
That is little short of electoral dynamite for despondent millennials – would you like 75% off a new home?
He does not say how those homes would be allocated – a lottery, or a waiting list? The resulting scrum would be legendary. When will the new owners be allowed to sell them? And how big is the ‘area’ of eligible young people – a few miles, or a whole region? The details will be key.
It is good to see his clarity that policies must primarily focus on building more good homes and communities, and his desire to bring smaller housebuilders back into the market.
That 2017 article is a paean to homeownership, but also a call for beauty and, crucially, essential public services along with those new homes, both of which will help reduce opposition.
Of course, in the South East, the scarce thing is not land, but planning permissions. The under-40s don’t need gifts of government land. You could just give them a planning permission and let them buy a piece of farmland for a few thousand pounds. The CPRE might have a view on that, of course.
The hardest thing about building new housing is where to build it. Mr Jenrick also suggests development corporations. They will certainly help get more housing built, although they will arouse fierce opposition in the South East.