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New Homes

Volume 516: debated on Thursday 21 October 2010

I am pleased to announce that the new homes bonus will commence in April 2011, which means that local authorities that grant planning permission now will benefit from it next year. I can also announce that the bonus will last a total of six years, facilitating the building of many more homes in every area of the country.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Will he also explain how the new affordable rent scheme will encourage development?

Absolutely. Until now there has been only one way to get into social housing, and for most people that way has not led to their getting a social home. That is why housing waiting lists doubled under the last Government from 1 million to nearly 2 million. There was only a single offer, and not enough homes were being built. We have introduced affordable rent, which means that rents can be up to 80% of the market rent. That is a more viable option, and it means that less money can produce more homes and that new investment will go into providing homes for the most needy in society, who were so badly let down by a Government who produced only a 14,000 net gain in affordable homes during a 13-year period in office.[Official Report, 27 October 2010, Vol. 517, c. 5MC.]

Will the Minister not accept that the new homes bonus scheme is in chaos? Can he explain what the incentive will be for local planning authorities, which according to the policy that the Government have set out will receive only 15% of the receipts, with 85% being returned to the shire authorities outside unitary areas, which are not involved in the planning process? Will the incentive be 15%, or will it be greater?

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is so confused about this. It is actually a very simple scheme, unlike ones such as the local housing delivery planning grant, which his Government used. That was so complex that literally nobody understood it or had any idea how much money would come in. Our scheme is simple. For every home built, there will be match funding for six years at the actual band price at which it is built. By the way, if it is affordable housing, 125% of receipts will be provided. We will consult on the split between district and upper-tier authorities, but something like 80% is likely to go to the planning authority. That will be a massive incentive for this country to get out and build the homes that Labour failed to build during its 13 years.

Can the Minister confirm that housing market renewal pathfinder funding will continue in the short or medium term, to enable the removal of all unwanted and uninhabited properties in the pathfinder areas? The acquisition and removal of those properties will clear inner areas of our towns and cities to enable the new affordable homes that we desperately need.

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I have visited pathfinder schemes on many occasions, and some were very good and some had some problems. We will complete all the committed HMR schemes, and we will then roll the funding up into the regional development fund to continue the good work.

The Minister can try, but he really should not duck responsibility for his own policies. When he announced this particular scheme in the summer, he told councils, “Build now, develop now, and you’ll get substantial benefits in the future.” Can he confirm that 70 local authorities have cancelled developments, 160,000 homes have not been built, the house builders are taking the Government to court and his scheme has been kicked into the long grass of 2011? Just how many homes will be built in the next 12 months?

May I start by welcoming the new shadow Housing Minister to her post? I hope that she does it for as long as I did—I shadowed many different Front Benchers. In the autumn, she made an interesting statement. She said that too many people thought her Government had not listened to them about housing. The difference is that we will certainly listen, and the new homes bonus will reward all the planning applications that have already been made where homes have yet to be built, so it will include all those homes. It will provide a far more compelling incentive than the local planning housing delivery grant ever did. The Conservative party has a proud record of house building. We have already heard that the previous Government managed a net addition of just 14,000 affordable homes in 13 years.