Cameron challenges Tories on housing

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David Cameron confronts his own party's "not-in-my-backyard" tendency today, abandoning the Conservatives' opposition to the building of three million new homes in the south-east of England over the next 20 years. In an article for The Independent on Sunday, the Conservative leader executes a striking U-turn by mocking people who believe that we should "build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone".

He writes that the supply of new housing must be increased to bring down the price of homes for first-time buyers - a policy that flies in the face of stiff resistance to new developments from many Conservative voters.

Adding credibility to his commitment to social justice by risking unpopularity in his own party, he attacks the "growing inequality" of the housing market, in which first-time buyers with wealthy parents can be helped with a deposit. Once on the ladder, they can benefit from rising property prices. "But if your parents don't have easy access to wealth, then you face a growing, sometimes almost insuperable, struggle," he writes. "This only entrenches unfairness."

Describing the present planning system as "bananas", he promises to overhaul it so that residents in areas of high demand for housing have "clear rewards for welcoming new development". He also wants planning laws changed to "ensure" that "beauty is built into new houses" and that "house-building plays its part in the broader fight against climate change".

Developing his Budget-day attack on Gordon Brown, Mr Cameron blames the Chancellor for not doing more to ease the burden of stamp duty for first-time buyers. He promises a Conservative government would abolish the "bureaucratic" Home Information Packs that Labour plans to require all sellers to provide.

Mr Cameron will deliver a major speech on housing tomorrow and wants to use the issue to give substance to his party's concern to bridge the gap between rich and poor. The party's statement of aims and values which he published last month said: "The right test for our policies is how they help the most disadvantaged in society, not the rich."

In his article today, Mr Cameron describes levels of homelessness as "worrying". Using language that would in the past have been ascribed to Labour, he writes: "The problem of overcrowding, with children growing up in unsuitable surroundings, leads to poor health and lower educational attainment for future generations."