Sajid Javid: Fixing injustices in our housing market

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are just fifteen hundred yards away from the site of the worst terrorist atrocity seen in this country since 7/7.

An attack that was aimed at children.

But, the next day in Albert Square, I saw something that makes me so very proud to be British.

I saw a community united.

People of all backgrounds, standing side by side, proving that the power of community in Manchester is so much greater than the power of those who seek to destroy it.

 

Of course, we have also seen horrific tragedy hit the people of Kensington.           

It is now over three months since Grenfell Tower was destroyed.

But our shock at what the families suffered remains just as strong.

We will not rest until justice is secured for the victims.

And we must make sure that nothing like this can ever happen again.

I have listened to so many agonising stories from those who lost their loved ones that night or barely escaped with their own lives.

It has been the most moving experience of my life.

Made all the harder to bear by the simple fact that this tragedy should never have been possible.

I am doing everything I can to help with the recovery and rehousing efforts.

We will ensure that justice is done.

That victims are supported.

And that people’s homes across the country are safe.

 

This is a matter of basic justice.

And a sense of justice has always been at the heart of the Conservative Party.

Today I want to focus on a great injustice:

The impact on young people of our broken housing market.

 

We see the consequences of this every day.

And one which has become especially clear over the last few months is that we need a complete rethink of our approach to social housing.

Far too often we hear of residents’ complaints going unanswered or even totally ignored.

Of repairs left undone.

Of basic fire safety hazards unaddressed.

Grenfell Tower was a community tragically torn apart.

And communities like this exist in social housing all over the country.

And those communities are being failed by the system.

Since the tragedy some truly appalling cases have come to light.

In Camden, 1,000 fire doors inadequate.

In Southwark, cracks in the walls so big that you could fit your hand in. 

All this in 21st Century Britain.

As Conservatives we cannot accept that.

We cannot have a system that ignores people, that ignores their complaints, and condemns them to living in homes that are just not safe.

This has to change.

This will change.

Our top-to-bottom review of social housing will ensure this.

Because no matter where you come from.

No matter what you’ve got.

You have a right to a home that is decent.

Secure.

And safe to live in.

 

The injustices in our housing market go beyond social housing.

For my generation home ownership was something that, if you worked hard enough, you could afford.

It was something you could earn.

An opportunity available to everyone, from every background.

Like my parents, when they moved to the UK, who bought their first home for just £500.

For too many growing up today things are very different.

Walk down any high street and you’ll see young people with their faces pressed against an estate agent’s window.

Trying, and failing, to find a home they can afford.

For them, increasingly, a house seems like something that you have to inherit.

The opportunity my generation took for granted now seems lost to many.

This is a national outrage.

And the biggest barrier to social progress in our country today.

It’s no wonder that we see so many young people angry, feeling left behind.

This is a clear injustice at the very heart of our society.

But the problem is not that we have a market.

The problem is that we have a market that is broken.

For decades our planning system has failed to plan for the number of homes we need.

There has been too much control given to those who will never accept development.

 

It’s a mark of our failure on housing that the Labour Party, a Party led by Jeremy Corbyn, is being taken seriously again.

So what do Labour have to say?

So little that their housing spokesman was barely allowed to speak at their Conference.

Well don’t worry.

I can tell you what they’ve got in mind.

It’s not a plan.

It’s not even any new ideas.

It’s just the same old disastrous policies.

Higher taxes.

Uncontrolled spending.

Ill-conceived interventions and nationalisations – even the return of rent controls.

Policies that don’t generate opportunity.

Or new homes.

Instead they generate unemployment, rising prices, and crushing mountains of debt.

It’s what failed young people so badly before.

Under Labour housebuilding reached a record low.

Average house prices tripled.

And social housing waiting lists rocketed by 700,000.

We will never let Labour destroy the hopes of so many young people again.

 

So, it is the Conservative Party that must provide the answers.

We’ve been making progress.

220,000 homes delivered last year.

And a record number of planning permissions granted.

But we still need to do much more. 

Last year I told you I would set out a plan to do exactly that.

I published the first part of the plan earlier this year.

It recognises that major reform is needed.

We’ve been getting on with that.

Introducing a new measure of housing need last month, which will finally see us start planning for as many homes as we need, in the places that really need them.

There is a lot more work to be done, but today I want to speak to you about another part of that plan.

 

Because, while getting more homes built is vital for fixing our housing market, as a Party we cannot focus only on helping people to buy their own home.

We have to face a hard fact.

The barriers stopping young people from owning their own home will not be fixed overnight.

In the last 20 years the private rented sector has more than doubled in size.

And young people are three times as likely to be renting.

Many landlords offer a good, secure, home to their tenants.

But, frankly, some do not.

Unreasonable rent rises.

Repairs left undone.

And the threat of eviction if you try to complain.

These are just some of the problems that renters can face.

Leaving them feeling ripped off.

And insecure.

This is just not fair.

Whether you rent, or you own, your home is your home, and you deserve better than that.

 

We’ve already been making changes.

Incentivising more secure tenancies.

Tackling rogue landlords.

And investing in new homes for Affordable Rent.

All hugely important steps.

But the recent growth of the Private Rented Sector means we need to go further, and faster.

 

We have been looking at letting agents’ fees.

I can announce that we will soon be publishing the legislation that will ban these unfair and unjustified costs for good.

 

Today I can also set out new measures to strengthen tenants’ rights.

We will take steps to protect renters against poor practice.

First, we will require all letting agents to be regulated, so they meet strict minimum standards.

Second, we will make it compulsory for all landlords to be covered by a redress scheme, with an Ombudsman, so that tenants have quick and easy resolution to disputes.

And third, we will consult with the judiciary on a new, specialist, Housing Court, so that we can get faster, more effective, justice.

This will mean that every tenant has the security of knowing that if they’re mistreated, or reasonable standards aren’t met, they’ll have somewhere to go.

Somewhere with the power to put it right.

 

Also, we will be taking further steps to give tenants more security of tenure in their homes.

All landlords should be offering tenancies of at least 12 months for those who want them.

And they shouldn’t be able to remove tenants when they have done nothing wrong without giving at least three months’ notice.

That’s why, at the Autumn Budget, we will bring forward new incentives for landlords who are doing the right thing.

Because renters, just like homeowners, should be able to feel secure in their own home.

 

Dealing with these challenges, whether it’s helping people into home ownership, or stamping out bad practice in the rental market, won’t be easy.

But we Conservatives have a long history of facing up to problems in our housing market, and finding ways to get rid of them.

Right back in 1951 it was Harold Macmillan who generated a massive expansion of council housing.

And it was Margaret Thatcher who helped two million families into homeownership with the Right to Buy.

The answers today will be different.

Some will be difficult.

But I’m confident together we can succeed in delivering on them.

As Conservative councillors and campaigners it’s what you campaign for every day.  

You showed what we can achieve with spectacular results in this year’s local elections.

Right across Britain.

560 seats gained.

11 more Conservative councils.

As well as 4 exceptional new Conservative Mayors.

James Palmer in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Tim Bowles in the West of England.

The phenomenal Andy Street in the West Midlands.

And of course, we should never forget, the victory of Ben Houchen, in the Tees Valley!

Throughout our history it has been the Conservatives who deliver opportunity.

The Conservatives who deliver prosperity.

The Conservatives who deliver security. 

We are the party of hope.

Building a better, more united Kingdom.

A Britain that we can all be proud of.