Since autumn 2009, 700,000 more homes have been created across England. The Government’s action to get Britain building again has played a vital role in supporting the growth of housing across the country, which has led to a sustained economic recovery.
I am grateful to the Minister for his reply, but he will be aware that demand for genuinely affordable homes massively outstrips supply. In the light of that, how does he justify the Government’s latest policy wheeze, which allows developers to offset vacant buildings on a site against the requirement to provide affordable housing? Is that not another example of his Government watering down the rules for private developers, at the expense of those on the housing waiting list?
I am actually quite proud of the Government’s record on affordable homes. In the 2011-15 spending review period, we will have put £19.5 billion of public and private money into the affordable homes programme, delivering 170,000 new affordable homes by March this year, the biggest programme of house building for about 20 years. As for the policy that the hon. Lady referred to, it has been in place for a month. We will have to review its effect and no doubt we will respond accordingly.
The policy of permitted development has been in operation for much longer. Will the Minister kindly look into that? Developers are able to convert office or industrial premises into residential housing with no social obligation whatsoever. In constituencies such as mine in central London, where there is a massive housing waiting list, that is not helping the situation; it is making it worse and forcing more families to leave the borough.
Introducing flexibilities into the planning system has played an important part in getting new homes in some places where there have been redundant office blocks. I know that there is a particular issue in London, to which the hon. Gentleman referred. We have just consulted on those proposals and we will respond shortly.