Q&A - We ask housing minister Brandon Lewis about development issues at the end of week-long series

Great Yarmouth Borough Council elections 2015.UK Parliamentary elections for the Great Yarmouth cons

Great Yarmouth Borough Council elections 2015.UK Parliamentary elections for the Great Yarmouth constituency.Brandon Lewis.Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass

As we come to the end of a week-long series on housing problems in the region, we asked housing minister, and Great Yarmouth MP, Brandon Lewis to share his views on the challenges ahead.

In your opinion, what has led to the so-called housing crisis?

In 2010 there was a housing market where buyers couldn't buy, builders couldn't build and lenders couldn't lend. Our efforts are turning that around with more than 290,000 families helped into homeownership through government-backed schemes since 2010, while the number of new homes is up 25pc over the last year.

Why haven't we been building enough homes and how is that going to be tackled?

We inherited a broken housing market with home ownership declining every year and house building falling to its lowest level since the 1920s.

In response we have set out the boldest ambition for housing in a generation, doubling the budget so we can help a million more people into homeownership and build a million new homes.

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We have seen the number of new builds up 25pc last year and over 290,000 people helped through government schemes own a home of their own but we will not stop there.

What is the government doing to make sure rents are affordable?

We're determined to create a bigger, better private rented sector and are attracting billions of pounds of investment to build homes specifically for private rent, which will increase choice for tenants. We have also introduced measures to ensure tenants can be confident they will get a fair deal.

Our £1bn Build to Rent fund will deliver up to 10,000 new rental homes, with over 4,500 already started, and our £10bn of debt guarantees programme will also support the delivery of new rental homes, as well as up to 30,000 additional affordable homes.

In certain areas of the county, a first-time buyer would need to spend 10 times their salary to own an averagely-priced home. Do you think this is acceptable and what can be done to make getting on the ladder easier?

We want to ensure young people who aspire to own their own home can settle down and enjoy the security home ownership brings. I would advise them to look at the government schemes on offer to them, the Own Your Home campaign directs people to the best scheme tailor-made for their needs. From Help to Buy and the Help to Buy ISA, to Shared Ownership, there are a number of options available. Help to Buy has already helped more than 150,000 people across the country achieve their aspiration of buying a new or bigger home and more people are buying all the time.

Would you say that developers holding onto land rather than building is a problem, and what can be done to stop it?

We have radically transformed the planning system, with permissions now up 5pc on last year. But we are far from complacent and have recently doubled the investment in housing to support the largest housing programme by any government since the 1970s. Housebuilders too should be playing their part to ensure we deliver the homes this country needs.

Should we be following certain planning approaches on the continent and allowing for more self-build and locally designed developments?

We want to see custom and self build grow significantly and believe it can play a role as part of a wider package of measures to help deliver the homes people want.

We are committed to doubling the number of custom build and self build homes by 2020 – so anyone who wishes to design their dream house can do so.

What is being done to ensure that developments take the community's views into account and come with the needed infrastructure?

This government is continuing the huge shift of power from Whitehall to the town hall and to local people. More than eight million people now live in areas that have had or will have their say on planning in their neighbourhood, and more areas are coming forward every day.

We are scrapping the broken old planning system that pitted neighbours and developers against each other, and cornered people into opposing any development in their back yard. The 175 neighbourhood planning referendums show how our approach of getting the whole community working together is paying off, and breaking through local opposition.

There are hundreds of empty homes around the region and thousands around the country that could be turned into homes. Is there a focus on encouraging local authorities to act?

New figures show that the number of empty homes is now at its lowest level since records began. This equates to a drop of over a third from 318,642 in 2004 to 203,596 in 2015.

We are continuing to turn around the housing market and are making sure the best use is made of all housing including empty homes.

We are very clear that a house should be a home which is why we have taken action to stop homes being bought up and left as an empty investment.

NOTE: We asked Mr Lewis about specific regional issues, but were told he was unable to respond at a local level because of purdah imposed for the local elections, a pre-election period which prevents the government from making announcements about new initiatives ahead of results.