Michael Howard – 2004 Speech on Housing

Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Howard, the then Leader of the Opposition, on 27 October 2004.

There are few things more important to us than the home we live in.

People in this country want to own their home. Owning your own home gives you security, stability and a base. It gives you a real stake in society. It gives you freedom and security.

A lot of people do already own their own home. But for more and more people – particularly first time buyers – it’s becoming very difficult.

Everyone knows someone who is desperate to buy their own home – someone just starting out on a career, or a young couple that have just got married and want to start a family.

Twenty or thirty years ago, their parents would have found it difficult, but they would have managed. But for today’s young people, the difficult dream has become the impossible dream.

But it’s not just young people who have a problem. It’s easy to forget that many older people want to move home – to a home that is more suitable or to one that is nearer their family.

So we need practical policies that that will help put a home within their reach.

Some people think the answer is to build more houses. We certainly do need more homes – the level of homebuilding in this country is at its lowest for more than eighty years – and we will be publishing our detailed proposals on this shortly.

But what we emphatically do not want is to concrete over the south east with millions of homes, which are simply dumped on communities and which are unsustainable.

Labour have been all talk. They have promised action, but they have not delivered. In many ways, through stealth taxes such as stamp duty and council tax, they have made owning your own home even more difficult.

I won’t promise to solve the housing problem overnight. But we are putting forward today a series of practical policies that will make a difference, policies that will address different housing needs and tackle the problem of affordable housing.

As Caroline said, we’ve been working on our policies for many months now. We’ve talked to a huge range of people and held wide-ranging discussions. Today’s document is the fruit of a lot of hard work.

The policies in this document will help increase home ownership in this country. They will help give young people the start they need and support older people who want to move house.

At the heart of our approach is people, not buildings.

We haven’t simply asked – how can we build more homes?

We’ve asked some different questions – how we can we make homes more affordable? How can we open up the existing supply of homes? How can we give more people a greater stake in the home they live in?

In short, how can the Party that gave people the Right to Buy today give people the Right to Own?

This is what we are going to do:

First, we will extend the Right to Buy to over a million housing association tenants who don’t have that right at the moment.

Second, we will allow social housing tenants to buy the home of their choice, not just the house in which they currently live. We’re going to do that by giving tenants transferable discounts that can be used towards the cost of any suitable property on the market.

Third, we will enable tenants to steadily build-up a stake in their home through a Right to Shared Ownership.

Fourth, we will bring the property ladder back within reach of ordinary home buyers – young and old – by extending shared equity schemes.

These proposals will help bring more homes within reach of more people.

They will increase home ownership.

They will make homes more affordable.

They will help people live in the homes that are right for them.

And they will help us invest in building more social housing.