Cameron relaxes on shared ownership

After a week dominated by Syria and EU negotiations, David Cameron turned towards more domestic issues this Monday, announcing a relaxation of shared ownership legislation in order to remove barriers to buying property and increasing home ownership.

During the General Election, the Conservatives pledged to build one million homes between 2015 and 2020. This ambition has been ridiculed by opposition Labour MPs though, who have been quick to point to the fact that home ownership has actually dropped by 9% in the last 10 years, a trend that shows little sign of reversing.

In a bold attempt to reclaim the agenda, David Cameron stated that, a manifesto shouldn’t be a wish list; it should be a check list”, as he announced extensions to current shared ownership rules which included: the scrapping of rules preventing people from using such shared ownership schemes more than once; the relaxing of rules which ring-fenced such properties for key and local workers; and allowing anyone earning below £80,000 (or £90,000 in London) the opportunity to partake in any such shared ownership programmes in the future.

Countering Labour’s claims that home ownership has actually fallen, David Cameron used his speech yesterday to lay blame on local councils and not the Government, saying,we’ve had local councils dictating who is eligible, based on everything from salary to profession to where the buyer comes from.”

In real terms, the announcement will mean that 175,000 more people will be eligible for homeownership and some of these will be able to buy their home with just a £1,400 deposit. Is this a step forward in solving the housing crisis? My instinct says it is not and ultimately will be seen as quite a disappointment.

It is true that more and more people are finding it harder to get on the property ladder, but making it easier for people to buy homes is not the only solution, particularly as there is no shortage of people wanting to buy a house. There is, however, a shortage of supply of housing and this should be looked at as a priority.

Housebuilders, developers, and others involved in the property sector are finding it more and more difficult to navigate through the planning process, especially as planning departments up and down the country become more and more stretched in the face of Government cuts. It is disappointing, particularly for those who actually want to build more homes, that David Cameron did not discuss this subject in his speech yesterday, which was perhaps a missed opportunity for the Prime Minister.

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