During his time at 10 Downing Street, David Cameron has presided over a number of deeply complex attempts at helping Generation Rent climb the first rung of the housing ladder.
NewBuy came first, guaranteeing 95 per cent mortgages for first-time buyers on new-build properties. That was followed by Help-to-Buys one and two: respectively, equity loans and a mortgage guarantee for first-time buyers.
The Help-to-Buy Isa, guaranteeing savers a “free” £50 for every £200 they put away, was announced with much fanfare in March and will launch in December. Then there are the proposed garden cities and the “sweeping changes” to planning laws we’ve heard so much about in recent years, not to mention that rock-bottom interest rate which has benefited housebuilders beyond their wildest dreams.
The Conservatives’ latest wizard wheeze, to build 200,000 starter homes by hook or by crook before the end of the decade, is actually just as convoluted as its predecessors.
Properties will be sold to first-time buyers, as long as they’re under 40, at a 20 per cent discount. Values of the properties in question will be capped at £250,000, or £450,000 in London which, as has been pointed out by campaigners, will require a salary of almost £77,000 to afford.
Among all the schemes, incentives, consultations and government support, a straightforward solution exists. It won’t only increase supply – which estate agents complain is continuing to dwindle – but will also make properties more affordable, particularly in the capital. It’s easy: just let people build.
Let them build up, and create apartments for exhausted commuters in places they want to live. Let them build out, and create settlements on the outdated green belt.
Earlier this year, research by London First found 22 per cent of the Greater London Authority’s area is so-called green belt land. That’s around 35,000 hectares. Golf courses alone cover 7.1 per cent, or 2,500 hectares – an area twice the size of Kensington and Chelsea.
It’s cliched to repeat that the capital is at risk of becoming a ghost town. But a decades-old agreement to constrain it means it’s bursting at the seams.
London’s young people deserve better, and the green belt can no longer be viewed as sacred.