Estate agent Paul Smith’s views on the housing crisis have been cited in Parliament, where it also emerged that the wife of new housing minister Alok Sharma is a private landlord.
Sharma made it clear: “May I start by declaring an interest, in that my wife is the owner of a property that is rented out.”
In a more than usually interesting House of Commons debate, veteran Tory MP John Redwood said the huge majority of people’s “preferred way of living” was to own their own homes.
He said the financial case for home ownership was “extremely strong”.
However, Redwood said that many people under 35 not only cannot afford to own a home, but find it extremely difficult to afford a rented home in London and the south-east because rents are “extraordinarily high”.
He added: “They may still live with their parents, but it would not be their preferred way of proceeding; it may not be their parents’ preferred answer either.”
In the debate, Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh said of the housing crisis: “The person I would like to pray in aid is not a natural ally; it is Paul Smith, CEO of Haart estate agents.
“He said on City A.M. yesterday that ‘as the average loan size increases whilst the average income decreases’, despite first-time buyers’ desire to buy, young people are being forced beyond their means, and government should intervene with a tax break as a quick and straightforward way to help them get on to the ladder… Theresa May’s legacy on home ownership has so far been a disaster.
“The ‘just about managing’ are further away from owning their own home than they ever have been, and the government’s feeble housing white paper did not go anywhere near enough to get housebuilders building and the market moving.”
“I could not have put it better myself.”
In the debate, Sharma admitted: “Whether housing is for sale or for rent, it is increasingly unaffordable.”
He went on: “To give some statistics, to buy an average home in England now costs almost eight times average earnings. Twenty years ago, it was three and a half times average earnings.”
He added: “I am new to this brief. I have heard many of the suggestions that have been made, and I will take an opportunity over the summer to think carefully about much of what has been said, but the start has to be building more houses.”