David Cameron’s conference speech today will include plans to increase home ownership, which has become a personal mission of both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. The Tories convinced that people are more likely to vote for them if they are homeowners, and are well aware of polling that shows most people want to own their home in this country. So David Cameron will overhaul planning rules that his advisers believe slow down development - the section 106 requirements that mean developers must include affordable homes for rent in their plans - so that more homes that people can afford to buy are built.
This reform will see the Tories trying to rebrand ‘affordable housing’. Cameron will say:
‘For years, politicians have been talking about building what they call ‘affordable homes’ - but the phrase was deceptive. It basically meant homes that were only available to rent. What people want are homes they can actually own.’
The Tory leader will declare 2010-2020 the 'turnaround decade' and announce a ‘dramatic shift in housing policy in our country’ which means developers can build affordable homes for purchase, not just rent, as part of those planning gain agreements.
The social housing sector, which is getting it in the neck from the government at the moment, will cry foul on this, pointing out that it will seriously hamper housing associations' efforts to build more homes for those on council waiting lists. But the Tories believe that increasing the supply of housing is the most important thing, rather than the supply of a certain sort of tenure. And they think that building homes to buy is more desirable for developers, too.
George Osborne has already made getting more homes built a central part of his leadership campaign, perhaps inspired a little by Macmillan’s success in housebuilding and career. That Cameron wants to make the moral, Conservative, case for more homes in his speech, complaining about those who have developed ‘affordable’ housing policy being homeowners who do not acknowledge the desire in the next generation to own a property too, does mean there is a slightly better chance of the government actually getting more homes built. It also shows that the Prime Minister doesn’t mind reviving some of the planning battles of the last Parliament in order to accomplish something he believes is essential to the long-term success of the Tory party.