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Social Housing

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 16 October 2007

We are increasing investment in new social housing, and I can today announce more than £10 billion funding for the regional housing pot over the next three years, to invest in new social housing, new shared ownership housing and housing renewal. That is an increase of nearly 40 per cent. compared with the previous three years.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that announcement and congratulate her on making it in the House today. Is not it important that all communities in the United Kingdom build increasing amounts of social housing? Following the research that has enabled her to make her announcement today, what advice can she offer the devolved Administration in Scotland—unfortunately, there are no Members of devolved Administrations in the House today—that would be useful in devolved areas?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. As he knows, housing is a devolved matter. We know that throughout the country we have a growing ageing population, with more people living alone, which means that we need more homes and more affordable housing. That requires new investment, which cannot be provided if unfunded tax cuts are being proposed.

What hope does the Minister offer the 330,000 families on the housing waiting list in London, or the 1.6 million families on the waiting list nationwide, of ever getting decent social housing? Is not it the case that it will take 35 years for those people to be taken off the list? With house prices still rising—the average is £400,000 in London—the chance of their ever having an affordable home is shrinking. Does not she accept that we need to increase dramatically the amount of social housing and affordable housing, and that the figures in the comprehensive spending review do not go nearly far enough towards achieving that?

I agree that we need to build more social housing, more shared-ownership housing and more housing across the board, and that we need to raise more resources from planning gain to provide additional funding. We are putting in several billion pounds of additional funding over the next three years. It is important that we take a responsible approach to the public finances, and increases in public investment have to be paid for. For London, we are supporting a 27 per cent. increase in the regional funding over the next three years, in addition to extra help for people who want to move out of London to find more affordable housing.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the acute shortage of social housing in Leeds, which has prompted the Leeds Tenants Federation to launch its “Right to Rent” campaign? Does she understand the federation’s concern that Leeds is not sufficiently committed to providing more social housing or putting pressure on developers to deliver the proportion of affordable housing laid down in planning permissions? Will she examine these concerns?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. I know that there has been hostility from some on Leeds city council to supporting sufficient additional and affordable housing. Every council and every area needs to do more to support more affordable housing for their local communities. We are supporting a 32 per cent. increase in the funding for Yorkshire and Humberside, which will enable substantial increases in social housing and continued housing renewal to be supported. I urge Leeds city council to work with other housing associations and local developers to bid for that funding in order to support tenants in my hon. Friend’s area.

The social homebuy scheme is meant to help social tenants to buy or part-buy their rented homes, so why are only 78 of the 1,400 housing associations offering the scheme?

The social homebuy scheme is a pilot scheme, as we have always said. The pilot concludes in March and we will then take decisions about how to take the scheme forward. It is right to examine different innovative ways to help more people on to the housing ladder and to help first-time buyers. I must say to Conservative Members that they cannot help first-time buyers if they are not prepared to back the building of the new homes that Britain needs.