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Hike second homes tax and build on green belt, says MP

The government should allow affordable homes to be built on “scrappy” land that has been “wrongly designated” as green belt and hike the stamp duty surcharge on people buying additional homes, one Labour MP has claimed.

Speaking at a House of Commons on Monday, Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden Siobhain McDonagh railed against ministers for failing to tackle the housing crisis and dubbed their record on creating social homes “diabolical”, before setting out her own radical plan of action.

She said: “First, it is time to burst the myth that the green belt is green and start using the non-green sites for the homes that our children so desperately need in London alone.

“There are garage sites, waste plants and deserted scrublands all posing as green-belt land.

“Would we rather use them for homes that our young people can afford to buy, or are we happy for scrappy plots of land and non-green-belt land to remain wrongly designated as green belt just because of the potential furore that de-designation may cause?”

Setting out her own solutions to fix the market McDonagh asked: “How about increasing the surcharge for the 10 per cent of people who own a second property before so many even own their first?”

She argued that we need to “end the taboo and encourage the building of modular homes”, which are cheap to build and can last for up to 120 years.

McDonagh also called for “punitive action” to tackle the 200,000 homes currently standing empty around the country.

She urged ministers to get tough on landbanking by developers but said: “If the government started unlocking their own land bank, the private sector would rush to follow.”

McDonagh suggested the government look at incentivising the building of specialised accommodation for the elderly in order to release housing stock.

Local people should have priority over international investors in property purchases, she argued. 

And finally she called for the government to continue to encourage pension funds to invest in residential property.

McDonagh’s comments followed a plea from Conservative MP Anne Marie Morris for the government to review its definition of “affordable homes” to make sure it is linked to average wages rather than just a discount on market house prices.

Responding to the MPs arguments in the debate, housing minister Kit Malthouse said the government was already putting into action some of the suggestions made by backbenchers.

He said: “I will say that I have found over the past 12 months a slightly debilitating attitude in some of our debates, which speaks of the problems we have in the housing market—there are certainly ones that need to be addressed—as if they suddenly arrived in 2010 and there had not been a general failure of governments over a number of decades to build the houses that we need.

“Under the last Labour Government, the peak in house building was 223,000 a year. We hit broadly the same figure last year, after 10 years of recovery in a housing market that had been decimated in the financial crash.”

He added: “Presenting a series of silver bullet solutions to a very complicated and difficult problem does not illustrate to the public that all parties across the House are joined shoulder to shoulder to build the homes that the next generation needs.”

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