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Affordable Housing

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 16 October 2007

19. What assessment she has made of the level of need for additional affordable housing; and if she will make a statement. (158168)

Using the methodology of Kate Barker’s review of housing supply, the Department estimates newly arising need that cannot be met in the market or by existing stock of at least 40,000 new social rented homes per annum. In the housing Green Paper, we announced an increase in new affordable housing to at least 70,000 per annum by 2010-11, of which 45,000 homes will be for social rent. We have a goal to go further in subsequent years, to 50,000 new social homes a year in the next spending review period.

I welcome my hon. Friend’s strong and long-standing commitment to affordable and social housing. I also welcome the announcements today and the statement yesterday on a proposed independent, stand-alone regulatory body for housing, including affordable housing. Will my hon. Friend look carefully at honeypot areas, such as Hebden Bridge in my constituency, where there are many second homes in converted mills, but very few houses for families?

My hon. Friend makes a good point and I hope that she will refer it to the regional assembly to consider. With regard to housing allocation, it is well worth considering other affordable housing options. Since 1997, 400,000 new affordable homes have been built—the figure also includes refurbished properties, which goes to show what can be done with existing properties.

The Government always look at the supply side of housing, not the demand side. Will the Minister confirm that more than 1 million of the 3 million houses that the Government wish to build over the next 15 years will be needed for future immigration? Will he tell us what assessment he has made of the impact of immigration and asylum on affordable and social housing over the past 10 years?

The hon. Gentleman needs to be aware that more than 70 per cent. of the demand for housing between now and 2020 will be due to people living in single-person households and other demographic factors. It is not all about migration. We have a migration impacts forum, which I chair jointly with a Minister from the Home Office, but we should also consider the contribution of migrants to this country. They contribute more, in terms of gross domestic product, than they take out, and the percentage is growing over the years.

Historically, my constituency had a large, poor quality housing stock and a low-value private stock. Now, it has a thriving private sector market and a hugely improved social housing stock, but an acute shortage of affordable housing. In spite of all the developments, not enough property is coming on to the market. Can my hon. Friend assure me that he will work with the local authorities and developers to ensure that that supply of housing improves?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. He has mentioned the enhanced allocations in the west midlands, including some 41 per cent. for his own area. The national allocation will be 70,000 more affordable homes per year by 2010-11, which will, I hope, make a huge difference to his constituency and region, and to the whole country.

I am sure that the Minister is aware that all too many affordable homes are not affordable at all when they go on the market, being far too expensive for many first-time buyers. Will the Government commit to putting large quantities of public land, such as that belonging to the Ministry of Defence and the NHS—which they have talked about releasing—into community land trusts, which hold the land and sell on the bricks and mortar at an affordable price?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that point; we are piloting such schemes presently. In terms of getting people on to the housing ladder for the first time, he should be aware that 26,000 key workers have benefited since the scheme was put in place in 2001 and 80,000 people have also been helped by shared equity schemes in recent years.

I welcome the Government’s proposal for eco-towns, but can the Minister reassure me that the same high environmental standards will be applied to new affordable housing, so that they are not just affordable for the people who rent or buy them, but affordable to run, in terms of heating bills?

My hon. Friend is probably aware that there are higher standards for affordable housing than for other types of allocation. He makes a good point about eco-homes, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing will take it on board.