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Social Housing

Volume 572: debated on Tuesday 10 December 2013

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for his contribution on the housing issue while a Minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government, particularly on helping to ensure that the £4.5 billion affordable homes programme is on track to deliver 170,000 new affordable homes by March 2015—100,000 are completed so far—and to fund an extra 165,000 houses over three years from 2015.

That is a remarkable contrast with Labour’s disgraceful approach, which got rid of those houses. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that highly successful arm’s length management organisations, such as Stockport Homes, which just opened the 4 millionth social home in the housing stock, will have an opportunity, under the Chancellor’s proposals, to build more social housing to meet the urgent need of my constituents?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I congratulate Stockport Homes on its success—I think it was recently voted one of the best landlords in the country. The 4 millionth social home was part of the Government’s commitment to reverse the trend under Labour, where the social housing stock in this country fell by 421,000. Over the term of our housing plan, we will build at least 315,000 new social homes, and he will also have noted that in the autumn statement we announced an increase of £300 million in headroom under the housing revenue account precisely to allow local authorities to build more social homes in this country.

24. The Government have presided over the lowest level of house building since the 1920s—[Interruption.] Is it not clear that we need bold action to boost housing supply, especially social housing, and to deal with housing demand? (901537)

Order. Insofar as the Chief Secretary was having trouble hearing what the hon. Lady was saying, it was because of extreme and frankly discourteous noise from his own Benches, a fact of which I know the Government’s deputy Chief Whip will have taken full note.

Wherever the noise was coming from, I should say that, of course, house building and construction is important in every sector, social and private. That is why, in the autumn statement last week, we announced both the increase in the housing revenue account—something for which my party, the Liberal Democrats, has campaigned for some time—and the extra funding for large sites to unlock another 250,000 new homes in the private sector.

As well as supporting the building of social housing, will my right hon. Friend continue to support the right to buy, given that over 30,000 tenants have benefited from right to buy, including many in Harlow?

The right to buy is an important part of the coalition Government’s housing programme. It has been substantially improved by the commitment to one-for-one replacement for social housing when each house is sold. If that policy had been in place under the previous Government, we would not have seen a net loss of 421,000 social homes throughout their time in office.

Why is it that, over the last 18 months, 11,000 homes have been sold under right to buy, but fewer than 2,000 replacements have been started? That does not seem to me to be one-for-one replacement. How does the Minister explain it?

Order. I said a moment ago that the hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) should be heard. The Chief Secretary similarly must be heard.

We have made a commitment to one-for-one replacement. Housing starts, under the planning system, cannot be started instantly, which is surely a lesson that the hon. Gentleman should have learned during his many years in this House. The commitment is there and every one of those homes sold will be replaced by a newly built home.