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Housing: Low Incomes

Volume 488: debated on Wednesday 25 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans she has to increase (a) the supply of and (b) access to affordable housing in rural areas in the North East. (257535)

The Homes and Communities Agency has been set a national target to provide 10,300 affordable homes in smaller rural communities from 2008-11 for both social rent and low cost home ownership. Grant from the £8 billion National Affordable Housing Programme is allocated through a competitive bidding process based on four main criteria: deliverability, quality, value for money and fit with national, regional and local priorities.

A number of rural communities in the North East will be supported through the Homes and Communities Agency’s investment in North East former Coalfields areas.

The Government are committed to helping the development of a viable, well managed and financially robust Community Land Trust sector. Community Land Trusts have the potential to get the weight of the community behind the development of affordable housing and bring forward land for development, particularly in rural areas. We recently published a consultation on the development of a viable Community Land Trust sector and we have received 63 responses from a wide range of stakeholders which we are currently analysing. We will publish the results in the near future.

The Homes and Communities Agency has built links with the Community Land Trust movement in the North East and aims to deliver more new rural housing through this route.

Access to social rented housing is determined by the allocations legislation. This is designed to ensure the widest possible access while ensuring that priority goes to those people who are in the greatest housing need. Access to low cost home ownership schemes funded through the Affordable Housing Programme is open to first time buyers with an annual household income of £60,000 or less who are unable to buy a home in the market.

The Prime Minister commissioned a report from the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell (Matthew Taylor) who has been looking at how land use and planning can better support rural business and deliver affordable housing in rural communities. His report, published in July 2008, provides a comprehensive review of the issues that our rural communities face, including access to affordable housing, and provides a number of practical recommendations. We are looking at the report in detail and will publish a full response shortly.