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Social Housing

Volume 454: debated on Tuesday 12 December 2006

19. What change there has been in the number of households on council waiting lists for social housing since 1997. (108121)

In England, 1.63 million households are on the waiting list for social housing. The number of households on the waiting list has been broadly unchanged between 1997 and 2001-02. There has been a significant increase in the last four years, which reflects the difficulty of affordability faced by those trying to get on to the housing ladder.

In Chesterfield the waiting list has risen from 1,774 to 6,170, while nationally it has risen by half a million. Yet Government policy has allowed the number of social houses to fall by 600,000 since 1997, and the Government steal £3 million of Chesterfield council tenants’ rent every year rather than allow Chesterfield to build new social housing. When will the Government change their disastrous, dogmatic and failed housing policies?

The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to learn that I do not agree with his characterisation. It is enormously important for us to produce more houses in all sectors—the private sector, shared ownership and social housing—and we are on course to deliver our target of 30,000 social rented houses a year by 2008.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, housing revenue account money is seen as a national resource, allowing us to target the areas in most need. We are therefore providing more resources, including more resources for Chesterfield.

Does my hon. Friend recognise that the crisis in housing is now becoming as fierce in some northern towns and cities as it is in some southern towns and cities? Bolton has lost a third of its housing stock, largely through the right to buy, and its housing waiting list in the last few years has quadrupled from 5,000 to over 23,000, and it is rising steeply. A few days ago, the Minister for Housing and Planning met the northern housing forum. Will the Department look at its proposals for alleviating the housing crisis in northern areas?

My hon. Friend is right to recognise that housing issues affect not only the south of England, but the north as well. We need to build more houses throughout England. It is important that we look at proper local assessments, and we are of course very happy to consider any proposals and initiatives that are brought forward by local communities.