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House Building

Volume 543: debated on Monday 30 April 2012

In 2011 just over 98,000 new houses were started—25% up on the numbers from 2009—and we are building 170,000 homes for affordable rent in the next three years.

In London, private rents are rising and families are being forced to move away from relatives, and children from their schools. With 360,000 Londoners on social housing waiting lists, why did construction start on only 56 new affordable homes in the latest six-month period? When will the Minister take his responsibility seriously, and how will he address this grave problem in London?

It is important to give accurate figures in the House. Once again, the most comprehensive and accurate figures available must be those from the English housing survey, which demonstrates that rents have been not rising, but falling. Her Majesty’s Opposition refuse to accept those basic facts and keep repeating incorrect information about rents. They ignore the fact that under this Government, homelessness right now is at half the average level that it stood at in 13 years under Labour.

The Government cancelled housing market renewal, and only 210 houses were built in Oldham last year—for the Minister’s information, those are independent figures—which is the lowest level in seven years. Fewer than half those houses were affordable homes. With nearly 6,500 households on housing waiting lists in Oldham and 1.8 million nationally—that is also an independently validated figure—when will the Government get a grip on housing?

Here are the facts: the housing market renewal programme in places such as Oldham and elsewhere destroyed 10,000 homes in this country, but by contrast, the previous Government built only 1,000 through that pathfinder programme. That is what destroyed housing in this country. By contrast, through the demolition of the housing market renewal programme, this Government are building 170,000 more homes for affordable rent in the next three years. That will be more than were built in 13 years when affordable housing numbers declined under Labour.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the massive housing developments proposed under the old top-down system for Barwell and Earl Shilton in my constituency? There are to be 2,500 houses for each town, which is a 25% increase. Does he agree that meaningful consultation is absolutely vital, and that simply putting a notice up on a church wall or placing an advert in a free sheet is inadequate?

It is essential that there is proper consultation. Ending the top-down targets that the regional spatial strategies represented is absolutely the right thing to do, and will lead to more building in the longer run, simply for the fact that local communities will take responsibility and ownership, and, of course, take up the new homes bonus, which, I notice, Opposition Members have yet to return to the Treasury.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in recognising the work that Boris Johnson has done in London on housing? There are 50,000 more affordable houses in London, with more than 1,600 of those in my London borough of Hounslow. He has promised to bring another 55,000 houses to London if he wins on Thursday. What can my right hon. Friend do to help him to deliver them?

Unlike his predecessor, Mayor Boris has been a champion for affordable housing in London, and indeed it seems very likely that he will have delivered 50,000 homes for affordable rent. It is worth bearing in mind that fewer than that were delivered throughout the entire country under 13 years of Labour.

The Housing Minister said that house building would be the gold standard on which this Government would be judged and that what brought him into politics was homelessness, yet we know from figures released today that house building is down 26% on average compared with what was achieved under a Labour Government, and that homelessness has risen by 23%. With millions in desperate need of a decent home at a price they can afford, will he now accept that his housing policies, like the Government’s economic polices, are hurting, not working?

The whole House has noticed that there have been no housing policies from the Opposition since the election. Housing starts in England in 2011 were up 25% compared with 2009, and in the same period the value of new housing construction was up 33% and construction orders were up 35%. Not for the first time, then, I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has got his figures plain wrong.