Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Immigration is driving up home prices, says the minister who believes housing takes priority over green fields

Immigration is helping to fuel rises in house prices that are preventing young people from owning their own home, the Planning Minister has warned.

Nick Boles said he has changed his mind about immigration after seeing how the arrival of 2 million new immigrants over the last decade has left Britain short of houses. He warned that failure to build enough homes would mean only the professional classes would be able to buy a house.

Mr Boles told the Mail: ‘I have become much more critical of immigration. A very substantial contribution to housing need comes from the level of immigration in the past two decades.’

The Planning Minister revealed that he has changed his views since becoming MP for the Lincolnshire towns of Grantham and Stamford in 2010 and minister with responsibility for liberalising the planning system to promote house building last year.

He said: ‘I had the classic metropolitan view about immigration that it was broadly good for me because it made life more varied and interesting and there were lots of people bringing different skills into the economy.

‘I wasn’t really aware of the effect on people who were competing for relatively low skilled jobs and competing for public services.

‘I was someone who had spent much of the last 10 years in London. It was only when I found myself in rural Lincolnshire that I saw the other side of it for people working hard and trying to get on.

‘Immigration has made my ministerial job more challenging. It has meant that we need to build more houses than we would otherwise have done.

‘And it has made it more difficult to persuade people that we need to build more houses. Peoples’ response is that we are building homes for new arrivals rather than for their children.’

Mr Boles said young people are being priced out of the property market, citing figures which show that the number of first time buyers who get a mortgage without help from their parents has halved from 69 per cent in 2005 to just 35 per cent now.

‘The biggest block on home ownership now is affordability,’ he said.

‘Are we really prepared to sit back and accept that the only people who are able to buy homes will be people whose parents can help them?’

Mr Boles has been criticised by Tory supporters for putting the need for new housing ahead of the preservation of greenfield land.

But he said Conservatives should back his reforms because they will help preserve the dream of a property owning democracy promoted by Margaret Thatcher, who grew up in his Grantham seat.

He said: ‘She made some very, very strong statements about home ownership. “A home, like food,” she told her constituents, “is a basic need in our lives”,’ he said.

‘Home ownership, she argued, “gives people independence and a stake in their country”. She was very critical of council tower blocks just as I’m very critical of the ugliness and impersonality of many modern housing projects.

‘What she thought then was that backing home ownership and generating that sort of pride in your own place and that investment in community, and that natural human instinct to improve where you live because you own it, she absolutely believed in that and I believe in it now.

‘Aspiration in terms of housing is going backwards. We are reverting, slowly but surely to the 19th century, where the only people who could own their own homes were the professional classes on large incomes and the landed gentry.

‘If we’re not careful, we will have done the most extraordinary feat of regressing in terms of the availability of what Margaret Thatcher said was as fundamental a human need as the desire for food.’


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