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Home Building

Volume 583: debated on Monday 30 June 2014

This Government have already delivered 445,000 new homes since 2010. Housing starts on new homes in the past year increased by 31%, the highest increase since 2007, and we have created new dedicated housing zones to support housing development on brownfield sites.

I thank the Minister for that answer and for the progress made to date. To take that forward, is not the key to go further in strengthening local democratic control over both the planning policy and the tax revenue derived from new homes? That would incentivise new builds, while giving communities with high density or lots of green belt or greenfield sites more genuine choice and control over the pace of development.

The key thing for me is that we trust local authorities to devise a five-year plan, to know their community, to know their place, and to have that dialogue with the community. With respect to incentives, every new house will bring money into the local authority to support those communities through the new homes bonus. We recognise that we need to grow small and medium-sized businesses, which is reflected in the fact that the Chancellor announced a £500 million package to support them. That is about jobs and apprenticeships. Those are the incentives that a local community can gain as a consequence of building homes.

Hackney council is one of the two largest builders of council housing in the country, yet week in, week out at my surgeries, I see people in desperate situations, unable to access that council housing or to afford the very high rent levels that we now see in my constituency. Is the Secretary of State getting some serious work done to look at how housing benefit can be recycled to make sure that it provides capital for housing, rather than the ongoing revenue support for those very expensive rents?

First, we have to recognise that the Labour Administration failed to deliver sufficient numbers of council houses. In four years of this Government we have delivered nearly twice as many council houses as they did in 13 years. In addition, an affordable homes programme has delivered 200,000 houses already and in the next three years will deliver another 165,000 houses. Some £300 million has been made available for housing revenue account borrowing to deliver another 10,000 council houses. This Government recognise the role of social housing and are delivering where the previous Government clearly failed.

There are hundreds of acres of surplus land still in public ownership—land that could be providing thousands of homes. May I therefore urge the Minister to redouble his efforts and the efforts of the Government as a whole to unlock the land and, in particular, to forge stronger long-term development partnerships between the public and private sectors so that we can turn these idle assets into family homes?

I recognise the work that my hon. Friend did in delivering that land. As a consequence of his work, we have pledged that we will deliver 100,000 houses. Some 76,000 houses have been delivered on that land and we expect more to be built. A strategic review has taken place to identify some £5 billion worth of land. My hon. Friend is right: this is about encouraging local authorities, with partners, to come forward. I know that the local enterprise partnerships are in conversation about delivering homes and making sure that the transport infrastructure is there to open up housing opportunities. Every Member of the House has an opportunity to build a strong relationship with their authority, to understand housing need and to bring about some of those partnership opportunities that my hon. Friend talks about.

In a recent press release the Minister said that the Government’s affordable house building efforts are a clear success story, but in the same press release the figures show that the number of affordable homes built over the past year is the lowest for five years, and the number of homes built for social rent has fallen to a 20-year low. If that is a success story, what does failure look like?

Failure looks like the collapse of the housing market in 2008, the 250,000 jobs that were lost, the fall from 12,000 to 3,000 in the number of small and medium-sized businesses building houses, and the failure to deliver council houses at the required level. This Government have taken responsibility for delivering affordable and social housing and picking up the failed and collapsed housing market left by Labour.

I will take our record over the Minister’s any day. The Labour Government’s decent homes programme transformed the homes and lives of millions of people across our country. In 2009 we built four times as many homes for social rent as his Government did last year. When it comes to affordable homes, I will take no lectures from him. Labour councils are outbuilding Tory councils by 2:1. Will he now admit that, whether they are in power in Whitehall or in town halls, the Tories simply cannot be trusted to tackle the housing crisis?

The record will show that in four years we have delivered—this is despite the dismal housing market we were left, the fact that people could not get loans from banks and the fact that individuals had lost their jobs as a direct consequence of Labour’s failed housing policy—200,000 affordable homes, twice as many council houses as Labour delivered in 13 years and a clear vision to deliver more houses through Help to Buy, which will deliver 120,000 houses for first-time buyers. Our desire to build housing is clearly on the record and we are delivering.