Looking for property-owning democracy

Former Prime Minister Anthony Eden ANL-140714-135534001
Former Prime Minister Anthony Eden ANL-140714-135534001
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By MP John Hayes

When Prime Minister Anthony Eden first called for ‘a property owning democracy’ back in the 1950s only about 30 per cent of families actually owned their own home.

It is easily forgotten that for much of the last century the majority of people lived in rented accommodation, much of it privately rented and of poor quality.

Over the decades we have made great strides to achieving Eden’s objective and, by the beginning of the new millennium, almost 70 per cent of families lived in homes they owned.

Sadly, some of this progress has since been reversed; the most recent census revealed that the percentage of people who own their home has actually fallen for the first time in over a century.

Part of the explanation for this is that rising property prices lock people out of first time ownership and part the perverse incentives which drive the provision of unappealing social housing.

As shadow housing minister, before the 2005 election, I developed pioneering ways to help more people own their home, such as shared equity schemes.

Eden wanted to build a society where home ownership gave everyone new pride through an enlivened sense of belonging.

Margaret Thatcher, our greatest post war Prime Minister, understood this too. I well remember the excitement generated by her Right to Buy policy which spread home ownership to millions for whom previously it was a distant dream; my own family amongst them – buying their council house gave my parents their first opportunity to own their home.

Like Anthony Eden and Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron believes in seeding and spreading opportunity, and through this Government’s Help to Buy scheme people can access the funds needed for a deposit for the home of their dreams.

So far Help to Buy has created 35,000 new home owners, giving a much needed boost to the construction industry by facilitating a properly functioning housing market.

It is first time buyers who are most likely to want new build properties and these will not be built in sufficient numbers unless the industry is confident that they can be sold.

Margaret Thatcher’s revolution has been given a new lease of life thanks to innovative policies like shared equity and Help to Buy. People in power own their homes so the people whose decisions they affect should have the same chance to do so.