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Volume 405: debated on Thursday 15 May 2003

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To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what measures he plans to take in the next two years to tackle the housing shortage in Luton. [110664]

As my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister made clear when he launched the "Sustainable Communities: building for the future"(SCP), some 22 billion is being invested, across England over the next three years. The East of England will share in the £4.7 billion being provided for housing investment in the three South-Eastern regions over the next three years. The recently established Regional Housing Board (RHB) will have a pivotal role in ensuring that the priorities set out in the forthcoming Regional Housing Strategy (RHS) are addressed and are adequately funded through the single housing pot.Regional Planning Guidance (RPG) for the South East calls for an additional 2,430 new homes per year in Luton and Bedfordshire. Luton and Bedfordshire, also fall into one of the four "Growth Areas" identified in that RPG, which have in total, been earmarked for an additional 200,000 new homes by 2016. The area will benefit from a share of £164 million allocated in the SCP to expedite delivery of housing. All this will help ease the strain on the housing market and enable more people in Luton to have the opportunity to own their own home, and will promote regeneration in the town, higher standards in design and efficient use of land.Luton has a number of affordable housing schemes already underway, in partnership with the Housing Corporation and Registered Social Landlords, to increase the amount of affordable housing. The development of the former Electrolux site will provide over 50 dwellings of affordable accommodation, the redevelopment of disused elderly homes to create sheltered accommodation for the frail and needy will also provide over 50 homes with care facilities. Other schemes are also in progress increasing the amount of affordable accommodation and other tenures in Luton.Luton's issues, as detailed in the "Luton Factors 2002–2003" document, are being addressed by a number of Government led incentives, designed to alleviate the housing situation that this country finds itself in. The emergence of RPG 14, the RHS and the developing sub-regional strategies, will enable the Government Office for the East of England to work together with regional and local partners to put policies into practice and deliver the housing so desperately needed.