There are more than 1 million one-bedroom social homes in England. In the last three years, this Government have delivered more than 150,000 new affordable homes. I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that under the previous Administration, the supply of social homes shrank by 420,000.
I want to look forward, Mr Speaker. In north Lincolnshire, at the current rate of availability it will take six years to re-house everybody who is currently liable to the bedroom tax. Does the Minister agree that Conservative-controlled North Lincolnshire council should make sure that everybody who has indicated they want to move but cannot do so is eligible for a discretionary housing payment?
The key is in the title—it is a discretionary housing payment, so it will be up to each local authority to assess who should be eligible. This Government are on course to deliver 170,000 new social homes by the end of this Parliament, and this will be the first Administration in decades to leave more social housing in stock at the end of their first period in office.
My understanding is that the discretionary housing payment expires next year. In addition to the lack of housing build over a number of years, there is a chronic shortage of one-bedroom and two-bedroom houses in rural areas. This issue needs to be addressed, and the recent “Rural Communities” report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee asks for a stay and a continuation of the discretionary payment until such time as there is a housing supply in rural areas.
As is customary when a Select Committee makes a report, the Government consider it and respond. As that report is from the EFRA Committee and it involves policies that are partly under the remit of this Department, but also the Department for Work and Pensions, I am sure there will be a comprehensive reply to it in due course.
I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. In advising local authorities on how they should bring forward plans for new housing, would the Minister advise them to follow the guidance in the national planning policy framework on meeting the identified needs of their area, whatever those needs might be, or would he advise them to give priority to one-bedroom housing because of the demand for it as a consequence of the bedroom tax?
I would expect every local plan, whether in Greenwich, Bristol or elsewhere, to take local needs into account. Yes, changes might well be needed in housing stock as a result of welfare reform changes, but we all know that there is a shortage of one-bedroom and two-bedroom properties as a result of our ageing society and of more people living on their own. That shortage needs to be met right across society.