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Housing Stock Transfers

Volume 472: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2008

Since 1 January 2003, there have been 105 housing stock transfers by 66 authorities, involving more than 422,000 dwellings, which has levered in £6.4 billion of private finance.

I am grateful for that response, and I welcome the Government’s policy to give tenants more direct control over their homes through non-profit housing associations; I think that that is absolutely right. Will the Minister tell us how that policy can help us to increase the availability of social housing, which is so badly needed in many communities, including my community of Castle Point?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question; he raises an interesting point. I have been taking the Housing and Regeneration Bill through Committee, and the relationship and interplay between the new Homes and Communities Agency and the regulator for social housing will be key. Tenants will have a view on what housing is needed in their area, and they need to contact the regulator to make sure that affordable housing is available there.

About 7,500 tenants in North-West Leicestershire have spent many, many months subject to a disgracefully unbalanced £1 million coerced stock transfer campaign by the local authority. When will my hon. Friend be in a position to respond to that district council’s proposals, so that the ballot can at long last take place and the deeply damaging cloud of uncertainty can be lifted?

I agree with my hon. Friend that clouds of uncertainty are bad for tenants. I mentioned the Housing and Regeneration Bill. One of its key provisions is to ensure that it is mandatory for tenants to have a ballot in respect of transfer of ownership of their homes, and I would encourage all local authorities to do that in the meantime.

Will the Minister congratulate Conservative-run Kettering borough council, of which I am privileged to be a member, which has decided to retain its council housing stock, is well on track to meet its decent homes standards, and is building a record number of affordable homes every year?

I hope the hon. Gentleman will thank the Government for the increase in council house investment during the past decade. Council investment has increased from £800 per home in 1997 to £1,100 per home this year—that is a 30 per cent. increase in real terms. We have also made available £3.7 billion to arm’s length management organisations to deliver improvements to council housing stock, and we will be spending more than £4 billion over the next comprehensive spending review period on arm’s length management organisations. I hope the hon. Gentleman will thank the Government for that unprecedented and sustained investment in council house stock.