For those who think that locking increasing amounts of the nation's wealth up in bricks and mortar is a nonsense, today's news that Grant Shapps believes that we should be looking for a gradual, but sub-inflationary, increase in house prices in coming years will come as welcome news. It's also one of the first intelligent things to come out of the Conservative part of the Communities and Local Government team since the election.
Combining this with reports that, without parental support to get onto the housing ladder, the age at which someone can expect to have raised the currently required deposit will be thirty-six, it is clear that something has to be done.
The idea of home ownership for all, a concept rather more alien to our European neighbours, is a nice one in principle, but if the cost of housing takes up ever larger proportions of household income, we have a societal problem. Combine that with a shrinking of the public and social housing sector over twenty years, the increasing number of small, often poorly capitalised, private landlords, and a pattern of building flats rather than family homes, and the issues are clear.
So, how does Grant get his wish? Firstly, there has to be an expansion of social housing provision. Giving local government the opportunity to invest in new homes will improve the social mix of social housing developments, take some pressure off of the private rental market (thus removing some of the inflationary pressures in parts of the country), and reduce the need for young people to buy, thus keeping house price inflation low.
And in a jobs market where loyalty to, and from, employers is increasingly a thing of the past, the flexibility that comes with renting rather than ownership should be encouraged. That may mean the encouragement of house rental, rather than flat rental, and again local government can play a part here. The proposals to encourage mobility amongst council tenants in the Localism Bill are a sign of positive intent on that score.
So, it appears that Grant and Eric may have learnt a few tricks over the Christmas break. They're still not off the hook though, and I'm delighted that Andrew Stunell is there to keep an eye on them...