James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, spoke to Redbrick about the government’s plans to improve young people’s housing prospects
Young people not being able to afford housing is a ‘significant’ issue but one is he is ‘confident’ the government can tackle, Mr Brokenshire claimed at the Young Conservatives Conference in Birmingham.
With the cost of living ever-rising and wages stagnating across the UK, there is a growing pressure on Theresa May’s government to shift its focus from Brexit and to deal with the financial strain on Britain’s young. With the Chancellor unveiling plans to scrap stamp duty for first-time buyers in last month’s budget, there are reasons for hope for those aiming to gain a foothold on the housing ladder.
However, more young people than ever before are struggling to find sustainable rented properties in metropolitan areas. When quizzed on the government’s plans to deal with such an issue, Mr Brokenshire maintained optimistic whilst acknowledging the problems faced by a large proportion of Britain’s population – with most of the burden being shouldered by under-25s.
He reiterated the Chancellor’s pledge to build up to 300,000 homes a year by the ‘mid-2020s.’ This is an ambitious promise which, if achieved, could help to alleviate the housing crisis across the country. This will impact heavily on first-time buyers who are currently being priced out of the market.
When pressed on the specific issues relating to students in the Midlands, he coined himself the cabinet’s ‘champion for the Midlands engine’ – an initiative aimed at focusing economic development in the Midlands. Alongside the northern engine, sceptics have questioned the initiatives sincerity since their launches but the secretary of state was quick to denounce such criticism.
Mrs May’s government is working hard to help young people to ‘fulfil their careers’ as well as ‘building homes for them and their future,’ Mr Brokenshire stated, with the sense of a permanent home being ‘out of reach’ for some.
Since the Prime Minister’s revealing of the Draft Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union on the 14th November, several ministers, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, have resigned in protest against the proposed deal. After a three-hour grilling of the PM in the House of Commons on Wednesday 21st November, leader of the ERG, Jacob Rees-Mogg submitted his letter of no confidence in Mrs May, which sparked a flurry of letters being submitted from Brexiteer MPs.
Questioned by Redbrick on the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, Mr Brokenshire reaffirmed the notion that he is ‘confident’ the Prime Minister will deliver a ‘positive deal’ for the UK whilst the government is ‘prepared for all circumstances.’
However, as a vote of no confidence in Mrs May looms, he was quick to douse uncertainty over the prospect of an emergency budget which may alter and stall his plans for the building of affordable housing for young people. ‘Whilst it [a no-deal Brexit] is something we should not be looking towards, we will be ready,’ said Brokenshire, ‘as the chancellor said, he has the fiscal firepower… to be able to support all different opportunities and scenarios.’
A Redbrick survey of over 150 University of Birmingham students found that three-quarters felt that their current rent is ‘too expensive’ to manage compared to a quarter who feel it is ‘manageable’. Soaring rent prices in areas such as Selly Oak are making it difficult for students to find properties with low rent, but James Brokenshire’s plans will attempt to alleviate these issues.