The Government will shortly announce the final new homes bonus payments for 2012-13. These were provisionally estimated in December at £430 million.
Will my right hon. Friend congratulate Conservative-run Milton Keynes council on its innovative plans to use part of a new homes bonus to acquire land assets from the Homes and Communities Agency, which will help to stimulate both more housing regeneration and economic growth?
Towns such as Hastings have almost no new land for the building of new homes, but we are encouraged by the new homes bonus to tackle derelict buildings and are doing it well, despite—if I may say so—being controlled by a Labour council. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that social bonus is as welcome to communities as the additional financial bonus?
I entirely agree. In the last year 85 homes in Hastings have been brought back into use, which is indeed welcome. It is essential for us to reverse the catastrophic policies that, under the last Government, led to the lowest level of house building since the 1920s.
May I draw the House’s attention to my interests contained in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests?
According to the Minister’s answer to a written question that I submitted on this subject recently, more than 70% of all homes qualifying for the new homes bonus in Kensington—one of the richest and most expensive parts of the country—are in council tax band A, which means that in 1991 their rateable value was less than £40,000. No developer or housing association director to whom I have spoken believes that it is possible to build a one-bedroom flat with that value, and some do not think that it is possible even to build a broom cupboard with that value. Is the Minister’s much-vaunted new homes bonus scheme delivering what it is supposed to deliver, or is it simply encouraging the reclassification of existing multi-occupied houses?
I know that the architect of the previous system does not like the new homes bonus, but I have to say that he is very mistaken about its impact. Nearly 160,000 new homes have been built—[Interruption.] Twenty-two thousand were brought back into use in the past year. I also know that the right hon. Gentleman is convinced that the new homes bonus does not benefit the right kind of homes, but I can tell him that two thirds of all new homes have been between bands A and C, which is exactly in line with the normal averages. The new homes bonus is rewarding homes throughout the country, and he should welcome the increase in house building.
The Minister will be aware that east Lancashire has received some of the lowest new homes bonus payments for the second year running. He will also be aware that there are more properties than people in the region, and that given such a market it is very difficult to build new properties. What is he going to do about the problem? It is not possible for us to receive the necessary amount of money in Hyndburn, yet we are paying into the pot year after year and losing out. Is this not just another example of “Take from the north and give to the south”?
The hon. Gentleman and I have had many discussions about the issue, and he will know that his local authority is being paid for homes that are returned to use when they have been empty for a long time. I should have thought that the new homes bonus money would be welcome and useful to him in that regard. Moreover, his area has just received all the housing market renewal money for which it asked, but I did not hear him say thank you.