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New-build Social Housing

Volume 470: debated on Tuesday 15 January 2008

We want to make homes more sustainable as well as more affordable. Homes built under the £8 billion affordable housing programme will now have to be built to code level 3 two years earlier than the rest of the market. We think it is important that where Government investment is involved, we lead the way in the work towards zero-carbon homes.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does she consider that the EcoHomes certification arrangements, which are set out by the Housing Corporation as a precondition for the funding of new-build by housing associations, will match the anticipated progress of the sustainable buildings code, and will she look into ways that the Housing Corporation might further incentivise more sustainable housing developments by housing associations?

That is certainly something that we are continuing to look at, because we have said that we want all new homes to be zero-carbon rated by 2016. That obviously requires substantial changes to the way we design and build homes, and we want public sector investment to lead the way. The Housing Corporation is now using the code for sustainable homes; it has switched to that from using the EcoHomes certification, and that means that there is an opportunity to look not simply at energy efficiency, but at wider aspects of sustainability.

We expect to build 30,000 new social homes this year—the figure will rise to 45,000 by 2010—as part of an £8 billion programme of investment in more affordable housing over the next three years.

Although I welcome that, the Minister will have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Joan Walley) saying that the number of people on the council house waiting list in our city has risen to 8,000 and is rising fast—by several thousand a year. Although I accept the interest in the market and in housing associations, and the better management of council assets that was mentioned in response to an earlier question, does my right hon. Friend understand that those measures are not meeting the need and that we are storing up problems for the future? Bad and unjust housing will lead to social problems and will undermine all the other Government policies in education and social justice unless we can find—

Two significant issues need to be addressed; we need to increase both the amount and the quality of affordable housing in Stoke and in other areas across the country. That is why we introduced the multi-billion pound decent homes programme, which has already lifted 1.8 million children out of poor, cold and damp housing—that is hugely important—and why we are investing £679 million over the next three years in affordable housing for the west midlands, which is a 40 per cent. increase over three years in the amount of such investment. I believe that it will make a significant difference to meeting housing needs across the country.