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Council Houses

Volume 450: debated on Tuesday 10 October 2006

Since 1997, about 235,000 new social homes have been provided, funded by the Government and by planning gain. The majority have been built by housing associations.

The Minister has not answered my question, which related to council houses. Will she confirm that, after nine years of a Labour Government, only about 4,000 council houses have been built? Even the Thatcher Government built 350,000 council houses. Why are this Labour Government so hostile towards council housing? Why will they not follow the Labour party’s conference policy to restore the building of council houses?

Let us be clear: local councils can build houses. They can use their own resources, prudential borrowing, private finance initiative schemes and section 106 agreements. We provide most of the Government funding for new social housing through housing associations because they can lever in an extra 40 per cent. of borrowing, which means that they can build 40 per cent. more homes with the same amount of money. That represents better value for the extra money that we put in. We are also looking at ways of giving councils more flexibility to carry out more building. In regard to the hon. Gentleman’s comparison with the early 1990s, construction and land costs were lower at that time. However, that was because the Tory Government of the time had pushed the housing market into a deep and damaging recession. I do not think that that is a housing policy worth returning to.