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Affordable Housing (London)

Volume 504: debated on Tuesday 26 January 2010

The Mayor of London and the London boroughs are required to assess demand for affordable housing in London. The Mayor’s own figures show that about 18,200 new affordable homes are needed each year. I regret to say that his current plan proposes to build 5,000 fewer than that each year.

As my right hon. Friend implies, demand for affordable homes to rent and buy hugely outstrips the level of provision in the Mayor’s housing plan. Does my right hon. Friend share my astonishment that Boris Johnson has lifted the salary below which priority is given to people pitching for shared ownership schemes to roughly the equivalent of that of a Member of Parliament?

I do. When almost two thirds of London households have a total income of less than £30,000 a year, and when we are ready, as we are, to help those people who otherwise could not get into the housing market for themselves, it seems strange to want to lift to that limit and spread the Government help more thinly. I see that as clearly the wrong priority for London and the wrong priority for Londoners.

Has the Minister had time to see the powerful report from the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, which calls for an assessment to be made by the Government of the impact of immigration on affordable housing and other housing, given the great pressure on demand? Has the right hon. Gentleman made such an assessment?

I recognise and pay tribute to the work that the hon. Gentleman does on these issues, which I know he follows closely. The short answer to his question is no, I have not studied that report. I would be interested to know whether the Lords Committee studied the changes that I made recently to the policy under which councils allocate council and housing association homes, because that makes it clear that migrants are not entitled to be on waiting lists in general, and it has given local authorities more leeway to allocate homes according to local pressures.

Can my right hon. Friend explain to me why, when the wealthy and powerful suggest things like raising rents to market levels for council and housing association tenants, or taking away their secure tenancies, it is not seen as class war? Does it not amount to a loathing of council and housing association tenants on the part of the Tory party?

Such discussions and plans demonstrate a lack of commitment to affordable housing to meet the needs of people who, in many cases, otherwise would not be able to afford to bring up their family and live in the private rented sector and never would be able to afford or maybe do not aspire to move into the housing market for themselves. The truth is that public housing in this country plays a critical role in the lives of many millions of people, including 8 million current tenants, and any plans to raise rents or reduce the security that they have in their own home will be met with justified alarm.