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Social Housing

Volume 560: debated on Monday 18 March 2013

The coalition Government’s reforms of council housing finance have given local authorities direct control of their rental income. That has given them the freedom to borrow nearly £30 billion, of which £2.8 billion remains available to use for new housing.

The Minister and his colleagues know how keen I am to help restructure Gloucester’s social housing arm’s length management organisation, Gloucester City Homes, which is one of The Sunday Times top 100 employers, so that it can play a significant role in providing homes in Gloucester without adding to the public sector borrowing requirement. My hon. Friend the Minister for Housing sees the importance of that to Gloucester’s growth and regeneration. Will he agree to see me before the Easter recess to discuss where the talks have got to and how we can make things happen?

My hon. Friend is right to give huge praise to Gloucester City Homes, which is an excellent arm’s length management organisation. I congratulate him on the pressure he is putting on my Department to ensure that we bring forward as quickly as possible a new scheme to support housing transfers. While the Minister for Housing will be keen to meet him beforehand, I am sure that we will make an announcement later in the spring.

Is the Minister aware that some housing associations are excluding poorer people from tenancies because of concern over their ability to pay in the face of Government welfare cuts? Southern Housing Group, for example, has said that reluctantly it tends to let affordable homes in new schemes only to working households. Will the Minister tell the House who exactly will house vulnerable people who are being excluded by housing associations as a result of this Government’s so-called reforms?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for bringing the House’s attention to that case. I was not aware of it and if she is prepared to provide me with the details I would be willing to meet her to discuss the issue she raises.

Many Liberal Democrat councillors around England would like to see more council housing and housing association property built in their areas. What can the Government do to encourage and support both those initiatives?

My right hon. Friend has long championed the importance of local councils being able to do more in developing further housing for people in their areas, and he must wait just a few days for a further announcement on that issue. As I have already said, given the changes that the Government have made to the housing revenue account system, £2.8 billion is still available for local councils to spend on housing.