Independent housing commission 'needed to boost ownership levels'

An independent housing commission should be set up to boost home ownership levels over the long term, according to a Labour-commissioned report.

The Redfern Review said the commission's main role would be to understand and make recommendations relating to future demand for homes as well as looking at the reasons behind key house price trends.

It said decades of consistent housing supply improvements are needed - and this can only be achieved with a long-term plan in place, with principles agreed by all main political parties. 

There should be cross-party agreement on 10 and 20-year housing targets, and this longer-term thinking would make it easier for developers to invest in larger projects, the report argued. 

The report was commissioned by shadow housing secretary John Healey. It was led by Pete Redfern, chief executive of Taylor Wimpey.

It said tougher credit constraints for first-time buyers, rapid house price increases and declining incomes for younger people have all contributed to falls in home ownership levels in recent years.  

Home ownership levels in England, for example, have fallen from around 70.9% in 2003 to 63.6% in 2014-15, the report said.

Mr Redfern said: "The detailed analytical work of the Review reveals the challenges that young people face in buying their first home and highlights the impact on them of long-term falls in relative incomes and ability to borrow.

"We must focus on supporting today's younger generation and creating a genuine long-term housing strategy independent of short-term party politics if we are to improve the position in a sustainable way for future generations."

The Government's flagship Help to Buy scheme should be refocused so it is targeted more exclusively towards first-time buyers and more support should be given to schemes promoting savings among young people, the report recommended.

The report also said more should be done to create a stable environment for renters, with many people now living in the rental sector for longer periods.

The Government released figures on Tuesday showing house building in England is at its strongest levels in eight years. The number of new homes being built has risen by 11% in a year.

Mr Healey said: "Housing is at the heart of widening wealth inequality in our country. Labour is determined to get to grips with the falling number of home owners and this review gives us, and politicians of all parties, the foundation to do that."

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