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House Building

Volume 560: debated on Monday 18 March 2013

12. What recent assessment he has made of the results of Government schemes to increase house building. (148148)

The Government monitor the rate of house building very closely. For example, we have completed 58,000 affordable homes in 2011-12. We assess that to be one third higher than the average delivery of affordable homes in the 10 years before the last general election.

But the Prime Minister over-hyped his NewBuy guarantee by saying that it would help around 100,000 families to access affordable mortgages—so far, only 1,500 households have benefited from that initiative. Will the Minister pull his finger out and help the 98,500 families that were promised access to affordable mortgages by the Prime Minister?

The NewBuy and Firstbuy schemes have helped nearly 20,000 people, which is in sharp contrast to Labour’s social homebuy scheme, which was launched in 2005. It promised to help 5,000 people, but five years later had helped just 384.

In the Leeds city council area, developers are exploiting the planning framework to build expensive housing on greenfield land. At the same time, there is an acute shortage of social housing, and there are empty homes, in Headingly and Hyde Park. Will the Minister join me in encouraging Leeds city council to use its powers to buy some of those homes for social housing, which they can do under new powers?

As a localist Government, we want to ensure that we are not directing councils, but clearly, those powers and the additional funds we have brought forward for empty homes are important tools that should be used by all authorities.

In answer to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell), the Minister seemed to suggest that the cost of rent is a mixed picture across the country. Let me be clear: research from Shelter shows that rents have gone up in 83% of areas. In my community alone, families are spending 60% to 70% of their monthly income on housing. Can I again press the Minister to say whether he thinks that the shortage of housing is causing a cost of living crisis, and what is he going to do to ensure that families keeping a roof above their heads do not have to go without food on their tables?

Let us look at the figures. Shelter’s numbers relate solely to new rental and not to the whole market—a very small proportion. Have we inherited a crisis? We have taken on difficult circumstances. Unlike the previous Government, under whom 421,000 affordable homes were lost, we are committed to ensuring that there are 170,000 more. We are committed to building more rented, social and owner-occupied housing.