I beg to move,
That this House has considered housing supply in London.
In the 1937 novel “Coming Up for Air” by George Orwell, the narrator tells us that his neighbours all think they have bought their own homes, and remarks,
“they don’t, the building society does”.
Although it was an inter-war satire of social mores in the suburbs, many Londoners now in precarious employment and accommodation would welcome the possibility of being beholden to the building society—they may even kill to have a mortgage. As was written in the paper the other day:
“Increasingly…owning your house is the preserve of the rich. Home ownership levels in England are plummeting just as new homes are shrinking”.
That was not in the Morning Star or the Socialist Worker; it was in The Sunday Times property section. This debate is supposed to be on the housing supply in London, but it would be no exaggeration to say that it is on the housing crisis in London, as that is what we now face.
I will base my observations on having been the MP for Ealing Central and Acton since May and having lived in Ealing since 1972. The seat is mixed in terms of tenure and nature, and spans urban and suburban densities. There are multiple issues relating to housing in London: the first-time buyer market and the resulting so-called generation rent; the numbers of young people living in shared houses, or even with their parents, right up to their 30s; the ability of councils to build houses with proceeds from sales; the disastrous new right-to-buy policy; the axing of Labour’s decent homes standards; the changing definition of affordability; and the dwindling number of key workers in the capital.
Housing is a vital issue everywhere, but in London the scale and gravity of the crisis—acknowledged by the commitments to build more houses in all parties’ manifestos—is particularly pronounced. Meanwhile, in popular mythology, everyone in London is living on caviar, quaffing champagne and Pimm’s, and the streets are paved with gold. According to Land Registry figures, London continued to see the highest price rises in the country. In March, prices rose by 11.3% to an average of more than £462,000. The rise was 5.3% nationally, with the average property price a much more modest £178,000. So London is different.
For my constituents, the average property price is now £535,319—17 times their average annual take-home pay of £31,000, according to the National Housing Federation. We also have the dubious distinction of being the constituency with the third highest number of private renters and of having the highest private rents in a marginal constituency, according to Shelter’s pre-election report. Among other things, that report found that 0% of housing in my constituency is affordable for a typical young couple, that it takes 28 years to save for a deposit and that private rents went up by 14.2% in one year. It is no wonder that only 50% of London’s households are owner-occupied, compared with a national average of 64%.
The average age of an unaided first-time buyer in London is now 37, so my first question for the Minister is: what does he predict it will be by the end of his party’s term in office? Will we soon be “Turning Japanese”? In that country, people bequeath mortgages from generation to generation.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing what is an important debate for all those across London who are concerned about this No. 1 issue. Will she be speaking about some of Ealing’s significant housing regeneration schemes, which are making people in other parts of London very jealous?
Yes, I will come on to some of the more noteworthy schemes in the constituency—just hang on in there and I will get to that.
I do not want to brand all private landlords as neo-Rachman rogues. According to the post-2015 election Register of Members’ Financial Interests, 142 MPs declared rental income under the category for land and property in the UK and elsewhere, in which annual rental income that exceeds £10,000 must be declared. That is 22% of MPs—just over one in five. There must be some decent ones among them.
It seems illogical that nine out of every 10 pounds spent on housing in this country goes on housing benefit, including for properties that went into private hands under the right to buy and are now rented back to councils as emergency accommodation to combat homelessness, which we have seen manifested in mushrooming night shelters, soup kitchens and food banks across the capital. Although red tape is often condemned and flexibility championed, I am proud—despite Labour losing the election—to have stood on a platform of reining in the violent price rises that lead to instability for tenants. We also need minimum standards, not only for tenants but for the letting agencies that can charge sky-high fees, in the hundreds of pounds—I have never understood what for; a couple of references, if that.
Renting is no longer just a transitory stage for people in their 20s; it is the new normal, and it is becoming routine for people further up the age scale, including many professionals in my constituency. A new staffer started with me the other day. He is in his 20s and on good money, but he is sharing 12 to a house, with a shared sitting room and kitchen. At that stage of life, “Who Stole My Cheese?” should not be a way of life, and there are older people than him in the same situation.
I am now in my 40s and first bought, pre-boom, in the 90s, but it seems that people a bit younger than me or who were not as quick to buy have missed the boat. That includes people with kids. I see them every day on the school run, and they are quivering at the prospect of the landlord selling off the property any minute, meaning that they will have to move on and find new schooling for their kids. For the people who did not buy, it seems that the generations before have benefited from rising equity and pulled the ladder up behind them.
In his new book, “Injustice”, Professor Danny Dorling says that in 2015, the combined value of houses and flats in the London boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster is worth more than the entire annual product of Denmark, the world’s 35th largest economy. That is a stark reminder of how London is different, and that applies to the suburbs too. The road where I grew up was not built for rich people. Opposite us lived Mr and Mrs Cotter—this was the ’70s: we did not know people’s first names—a postman and a dinner lady with two kids. Yesterday, I googled our old postcode, W5 1JH. No properties were for sale there, but all the homes on the neighbouring Greystoke estate, which are largely semis, were worth slightly plus or minus £1 million. There is no way that a postie and a dinner lady could afford to live in that road now—indeed, no public sector worker could afford any house in any part of my constituency on the open market.
The other day, I met our local chief superintendent, who told me that 60% of Met officers now live outside the M25, far removed from the communities they serve. Every school I visit locally tells me that it can get young teachers in to train, but as soon as they want to settle and put down roots, they are lost to Slough or beyond, because housing in west London is too prohibitively costly for them to stay.
The current Mayor of London, the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), is notable by his absence—where is he when you need him? I have had my brushes with him, it must be said, but it was he who claimed that not only property prices but benefit changes in this city were causing “Kosovo-style social cleansing”. Those are not my words; they are his. What steps is the Minister taking to reverse the trend of a growing proportion of London’s key workforce, be they in public services or other employment, being left behind and pushed out?
In an attempt to bring down the housing benefit bill, last week’s Budget effected a raid on housing associations and registered social landlords, whose properties look set to be sold off and whose revenues will be raided, stopping them from building more houses. The little social housing that we have will dwindle, and the policy is being funded by the sale of the so-called most expensive social housing properties in those boroughs. Were that to happen, it would lead to the total decimation of all housing stock in most of zone 1.
Is my hon. Friend aware that my borough of Islington has a good record of building new council houses to a high standard? We have just completed an excellent development on Caledonian Road of 25 first-rate flats. If the Government’s policy goes through, they will all be sold and not one person on the housing waiting list or in housing need will get them. They will just be sold on to the private market and rented out privately. Does she agree that that is a scandal?
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. It sounds like good things are being done in Islington, but they are being stifled by central Government. If only everywhere could be like Islington. With his leadership bid, maybe we could roll out the Islington model more widely.
A residential research report from JLL states that a fifth of women and a third of men aged from 20 to 34 are still living in their parent’s homes in London. They have been termed “the boomerang generation”, and there is academic research showing that this is causing redefined roles between adults and identities and intergenerational conflict, because it creates a dependence model. Before becoming an MP, I was a lecturer at Kingston University, and a lot of people among the student body there were not even boomeranging away from the parental home to boomerang back to it. The combination of tuition fees and the economic slowdown means that they do not even leave to pursue their education in the first place, so we are starting to resemble France, where people tend to stay local for university. Lord Kerslake has stated that
“Londoners are missing out on opportunities: delaying having families, being forced to rent for longer and many are locked out of home ownership completely.”
Housing is not just about bricks and mortar; it is about resilient, ideally mixed communities, and its affordability is key to unlocking this city’s full potential.
I was asked earlier about developments in my constituency. On the eastern edge is Old Oak, the super-development zone that we are promised, with 24,000 dwellings coming on stream, but most of these properties will be out of reach for most of my constituents. Can the Minister say what is being done to change the definition of affordability from the current Mayor of London’s reckoning of it as a whopping 80% of market rate?
The word “crisis” tends to be one of the most overused in politics, but right here, right now in this city, it is justified. It is not hyperbole; it is reality. London’s population is set to expand to 10 million in the next 15 years. The suburbs were once seen as the solution to our social ills—combining the convenience of city working with the values of a rural idyll; positioned between concrete jungle and village green—but even these districts at the edge of our city are now suffering with out-of-control house prices, and they are spawning these unsafe beds in sheds. The saying was meant to be that an Englishman’s home is his castle, not his shed—leaving aside the implied sexism of that phrase.
Only a massive house building programme can solve the problem, and that is something that, I will admit, successive Governments have failed to undertake. The coalition Administration concentrated on developer-led, private homes, rather than social housing and mixed communities. The cuts to tax relief for landlords in the Budget sounded laudable, but what happened to the promised neo-garden city movement? I do not hear so much about that anymore.
We need to ensure that we do not lose people to Slough, Milton Keynes and Luton. We need to reverse the brain drain away to other global cities, which will see this city hollowed out by all the Old Oaks of this world and other developments in my constituency. Indeed, there is one by the railway tracks at Ealing Broadway—Dickens Yard—where new two-bedroom flats cost £1.2 million. Needless to say, the lights are always off, because absentee purchasers snap them up as investment vehicles rather than as a roof above their head. I imagine that the Minister will say, “It’s all devolved in London,” but will he agree to include in his next housing Bill a power to let councils ban overseas and off-plan sales, to ensure that first-time buyers in London at least have a chance?
Is my hon. Friend aware that much of this overseas purchasing involves dodgy money from Russian oligarchs and elsewhere, and that house prices in our city are being pushed up by criminal money and criminal enterprise? Is it not time for the Government to clamp down on Russian oligarchs, or are they too dependent on funding from connected people?
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. Those dodgy people do need to be clamped down on. It would be a nightmare if London became just a playground for oligarchs, which is the way things are going.
The start of a new term in Parliament marks a natural punctuation point for new thinking. Will the Minister look towards alternative solutions such as co-operative housing? In 1997, Tony Blair stated that the main issue was “Education, education, education.” In 2015, it must surely be “Housing, housing, housing.” According to Ipsos MORI, 28% of Londoners rate housing as their main concern, compared with 13% nationally. This is a timely debate, and I look forward to hearing contributions from my fellow Members, as well as from the Minister.
I thank the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq) for securing today’s important debate. She was right to make the point that all parties stressed in their manifestos the need for extra housing. That need is clear in London, the population of which is growing faster than anywhere else in the country and at the fastest rate in history. The official 1939 population peak of 8.6 million was surpassed earlier this year. The projection for 2020 is 9 million, but Members present, most of whom represent London constituencies, will recognise that a huge number of people are missed when data are collected; the figure is perhaps rather closer to 9 million, if not larger, already. It is therefore right to concentrate on housing in London.
It is also right, as the hon. Lady said, that general elections mark a punctuation point, allowing us to consider what we should be doing in the future. They also provide a chance to ensure that we recognise exactly what is being done already. Some of the likely developments have already been set out, and that will continue under this Government in London because we were elected.
The housing strategy, as set out by the Mayor of London, must undoubtedly consider not only the private sector, but other sectors across the market. It is also clear that, under this Mayor, more houses, particularly in the social and affordable housing markets, have been built than ever before—[Interruption.] It is all very well to shout “rubbish” from a sedentary position; some Members may not want to hear the facts. Under the mayoral programme, which set out to build 100,000 affordable homes over two mayoral terms, 94,000 affordable homes have been delivered since the Mayor was elected. He is on course to deliver 15,000 more over the next two years.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the Mayor of London’s definition of affordable housing is such that it is beyond the pockets of most of the people represented on these Benches?
I do not accept that. The market has various sections, and affordable homes are clearly aimed at a particular section. The strategy that the Mayor claimed to be able to deliver is being delivered. He is investing £1.25 billion in the supply in London, which will lead to another 42,000 homes being provided between now and the end of 2018. Such allocations of money will support the delivery of homes on the scale announced for the next two years.
No one is suggesting that we do not need to build more houses, and in all areas of the market, but we need to be clear about what is already being done. The affordable homes scheme is delivering more affordable homes in London than ever before. Furthermore, the Mayor’s First Steps strategy, a single brand for shared ownership products throughout London, is clearly part of an ambition to deliver a number of homes in the capital, doubling by 2025 and helping about 250,000 Londoners into home ownership. That will make a significant impact on affordable home ownership, ensuring that 36,000 more affordable homes in London will be coming through, and have been built in the past five years.
The biggest issue in London is the cost of a home and how that cost starts: with the basic cost of land. One of the major promises that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Mayor, the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), set out in February this year was the London land commission. Members on both sides should be standing up to welcome the fact that we are bringing into use public sector land that is not being used operationally.
It is fantastic to have a land commission bringing public land into use, but not if such land continues to be sold off to the highest bidder. Scotland Yard has been sold off for penthouses. Can the hon. Gentleman understand the outrage in London when no affordable homes are built?
I would have listened more carefully to the right hon. Gentleman’s comments had he not said that no affordable homes were being built—that is simply not true. As I have already laid out, 15,000 will be built this year in London. Clearly, the Mayor is delivering.
The sources of land and the value to the public sector— how the land and different elements of it are used—will vary, but the London land commission has an opportunity to bring land into use for home ownership of all types throughout London. Significant tranches of land are involved. Transport for London, for example, has 568 designated sites where non-operational land could be brought into use; 98 of those are ready to be rolled out pretty much immediately, according to the TfL development director, Mr Craig.
We should not squander the opportunity, which is significant. Such land has involved work in London’s east end and the Royal Docks; we have already mentioned Old Oak Common. We should also consider the potential that the Mayor has given in the money allocated—not only to land, but to the new housing zones, which are an initiative to accelerate housing developments in areas of high potential. Last year London boroughs were invited to participate in a programme, and I am delighted that my borough will be seeking to participate. The programme is likely to deliver a significant number of homes across the borders of my constituency and that of the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh). Those will not only be affordable homes, but homes in the social rented sector as well as in the private sector.
It is good of the hon. Gentleman to read out the Mayor’s brief, but that is just utter fantasy. The hon. Gentleman mentioned Old Oak Common and TfL, but the largest TfL site is in my constituency and no social rented homes are going in those places. The limits for income have just been put up to £85,000. That is not building for Londoners; it is building for oligarchs.
I am not just reading out the Mayor’s brief; I have a panoply of things in front of me. Opposition Members will undoubtedly read out the Labour party prepared brief in a moment. I am happy for anyone to inspect my things—no brief talks about the TfL numbers, because I personally researched them. I know that those numbers are there and that they are possible. A number of sites of varying size can be brought back into all sorts of home ownership. Some of that will be affordable housing and some social renting—[Interruption.] As my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) rightly points out from a sedentary position, when it comes to Old Oak Common, we cannot yet be sure—the potential is there for at least 24,000 homes, but the mix is not yet certain.
Clearly, there is a housing supply problem in London—[Interruption.] It is not right to say that the Government are doing nothing; the Government are doing a huge number of things, supporting the Mayor in London. Labour Members might not like this, but the reality is that in the Labour party’s 13 years of office, almost no council houses were built; in the past five years of the coalition Government, twice as many were built. [Interruption.] It is no good Labour Members shaking their heads: the numbers are there—that is absolutely true. Despite Labour cries, it is Conservative Members and their Government, with the support of a Conservative London Mayor, who are taking the action to deliver the housing that Londoners need.
I am grateful, Mr Chope, to have the opportunity to speak, although I will not speak for too long as many colleagues want to get in. I will concentrate on a few points that would change the situation for many people.
Right from the beginning, we must say that there is a big difference of opinion about what is affordable. Frankly, it is not acceptable for the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) to use the word “affordable” and not accept what has already been said: that 80% of market value is not affordable for Londoners, who have average earnings of £32,000 a year when the average property in London costs £470,000. It is also not acceptable for the hon. Gentleman not to understand and to say nothing in his contribution about the concept of council or social rents. Most Londoners find themselves in an overheated market, so they want to see affordable social or council rents. That is the dispute.
Other difficult issues face the city. There is deep concern about another word used by politicians that is coming to mean very little—“viability”. It is used too often by developers and local authorities, including Labour ones—this is not a partisan point—to say that the proportion of affordable homes on a development will be low, and that is using Boris’s definition of affordable. That is why two weeks ago I rejected a plan in my constituency to turn a police station into flats, given that only 14% of them were to be affordable. That is not acceptable when public land is involved.
The hon. Member for Wimbledon shouts about the land commission, but he needs to understand that it means nothing if it amounts to the selling off of public land, to which taxpayers have contributed over so many years, to the highest bidder and moving it from public to private ownership. That is not acceptable. It must be fought and stood up to in this city.
What is equally not acceptable is to mischaracterise the situation. A huge number of Londoners want to get on the housing ladder, and some of the housing now being provided represents exactly that sort of opportunity. We are not talking only about social rents and affordable housing; some of the opportunities enable young Londoners to get on to the housing ladder.
Do the maths: the average house costs £470,000 and the average salary is £32,000. With loans at three and a half times a person’s salary, many Londoners will not be able to get on the ladder. People are therefore looking for a Government and a Mayor who have something to say about social housing. What this Government are saying about social housing is, “We are going to extend the right to buy even further and take even more property off the ladder.”
Before my right hon. Friend gets fully into the issue of social housing, he must be aware of the problems of the permitted development rule, by which any industrial or office premises can be converted into private sector housing with no need for planning permission and therefore no control whatever over the kind of property put there. That is yet another example of missed opportunities: good quality council housing could have been provided but instead there is very expensive, upmarket private rented stuff.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. We need homes, but not at the expense of business and industry in this city. Of course, these are developments of homes with no infrastructure or support. Office space and facilities are dwindling in the city of London. Again, the hon. Member for Wimbledon had nothing to say about that.
There are some things that need to happen. We need a redefinition of affordability. We should make the plans that developers put forward for public land transparent and open. All of the accounts of viability on public land should be available to the public, so that they can interrogate whether the proportion of affordable homes is in fact fair.
We also need a degree of rent stabilisation. The vast majority of people moving into homes in London this year are not buying their own homes, but are in the private rented sector. Rents are soaring—in the past two years they have gone up by 20% in the London borough of Haringey and 40% in the London borough of Richmond. Given those soaring rents, does the Mayor have anything to say about the private rented sector? No. He has nothing to say at all. He has nothing to say about the licensing of landlords. A mother came to see me two weeks ago. She was fleeing domestic violence, and was sleeping in a friend’s hallway with her three children. That is what is happening in London’s private rented sector.
Where is the plan for the licensing of landlords and what do the Government have to say about overheated rents? If Angela Merkel can run on rent stabilisation in her country and Mike Bloomberg can run on rent control in New York, why is this brand of conservatism so extreme and so set against that?
I will give the right hon. Gentleman one example. What about the London Housing Bank using loans of up to £200 million to ensure that there is affordable rental accommodation? That is an example of a one nation Conservative Mayor tackling the issue of affordable rents.
I am afraid we have come back to the original debate about what is in fact affordable. Too many people are not seeing that affordability.
I suggest that we create a new vehicle—a Homes for London agency. The Government are set against any borrowing, but it is important to understand that a large part of the problem in London has been caused by the entire withdrawal of public grant to build homes in the city, amounting to £4 billion lost from this Government. That has to be replaced somehow. A new agency in London with a triple A rating could go to the bond markets and raise money against gilts, as Transport for London does. That would get us to a £10 billion fund—we will need a fund of that size if we are to make a difference. It is not about Government borrowing but a vehicle in London that can do something.
We need some kind of bond system to raise significant money for building social and council homes. We need to redefine affordability. We need rent stabilisation—every major city in the world understands that overheated rents lead to chaos and overcrowding; in some cities, such as Paris, they have led to riots. It is also important to hear what is being said in communities about estate regeneration.
I am against setting up a 1970s-style bureaucracy to impose rent control. I am for a rent cap, linked to interest rates, to ensure that our more excessive landlords are not able to drive up rents in the way that we are currently seeing. That model would require much less bureaucracy. It seems to work, in continental Europe in particular, and we should adopt it. It is the one that our party had in our manifesto at the last election, and I thought we had landed in the right place.
Finally, there is the issue of brownfield land—this relates to what my hon. Friend the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) said about permitted development. If we stick to the idea that all our solutions can be built solely on brownfield land, we will end up driving out business and industry, and building solely upwards. I suspect that absolutely no one in this Chamber lives on the 22nd floor of a development, particularly if they have kids. In the 1960s and 1970s, we built things all over London that people simply do not want to live in. There is a real danger that we will do that again. We need some mechanism for green belt review.
A lot of the green belt is not green; it is car parks, quarries and waste land. Using just 3.6% of the green belt would let us build 1 million homes. In the London area, having the outer boroughs make a contribution with redesignation would get us much further along in this journey. The vast majority of housing being built is small—in fact, tiny—two-bedroom flats. That does not help the families in real need in this city.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Chope. I welcome the debate secured by the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq).
All Members present, representing areas of London both north and south, agree that housing is the No. 1 issue and one we need to debate more. I do not want to take up too much time, because I do not want to interfere with what has been, in many ways, a Labour London mayoral hustings. Although Labour nationally and in London should be doing a lot of soul searching, there also needs to be some honesty. There has been none yet in the leadership hustings, so perhaps there will be some in the Labour mayoral hustings.
We have heard the usual pejoratives about the rich coming over here and taking up all the London property, as well as the usual mantras about rent caps and controlling the market. We have also heard—with a shudder, certainly in my constituency—an attack on the green belt. People will be rushing to their local plans to make sure that there is proper protection for their local area. We must make sure that those decisions are made locally.
Let us have an honest debate. Let us recognise that there has been a 30-year failure by Governments to provide sufficient housing in London, and that there is blame on all sides. Let us also recognise that the Mayor and the Government have made great strides. Despite coming through a great recession, we are now able to seek to realise our ambition of doubling house building. We do not need a mayoral briefing, or any other briefing; we can look at the National House Building Council statistics: in 2014 there was a 10% increase in new housing registrations, at 28,733, up from what had been a record figure in 2013 of 26,230. We can all look around our constituencies and say that a lot more is needed, but there has been progress, which should be welcomed.
Also to be welcomed is the ambition to build 22,000 new homes. We have not seen anything like that since the 1930s. I am proud to be a Conservative and a Member of a one nation party and Government. We have a great history of leading revolution in house building. Together with the Conservative Mayor, we are starting to get there.
This debate is about affordable housing in all its forms, but it is also about rents. We have not yet mentioned the Mayor’s strategy, which is about ensuring that we build purpose-built rental property to have an affordable rental market. I referred to the housing bank, which provides £200 million of loans. Affordable rental properties are an important element of the market.
We also need to recognise that many of our constituents cannot get on to the housing ladder because they cannot afford it. Young professionals cannot get on to the ladder. We need to build affordable housing.
It does. I will talk about Enfield shortly, where some of the affordable housing that is being built is genuinely affordable. Meridian Water, which is alongside the constituency of the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), will provide 5,000 new homes and is a huge opportunity to provide genuinely affordable housing as part of a mix. There needs to be a mix. We also need to focus on shared ownership to help people to get on to the ladder. We need to do more to encourage the First Steps programme, which my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) mentioned; as he said, that should double in scale. Shared ownership is important and should be a priority. We should call on housing associations to encourage shared ownership of their housing stock, rather than seeing it as an add-on or a subsidy for the rental market.
I did not hear the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton say anything positive about regeneration, even though there has been significant regeneration in her constituency. This week, a £55 million regeneration project was announced. On my patch in Enfield, Meridian Water is a huge opportunity to build 5,000 homes and create thousands of jobs; crucially it is linked to the transport infrastructure changes that are needed to transform the Lee Valley area. That is important.
The 20 housing zones are producing life-changing opportunities. We need more, and across London we should welcome them. London leaders do welcome them, but the Opposition seem not to.
When new housing starts at £1.2 million, how does the hon. Gentleman square that with the fact that there are 13,000 people on the council waiting list in Ealing borough; there are only 700-plus properties whose leases turn over each year; and there are 250,000 people on the waiting lists in London? The stuff being built is not appropriate to those people.
I agree, and the challenges in Enfield are similar to those in Ealing. I will not put my head in the sand and say all is rosy out there; I want to challenge the Government on some aspects. The plan for the redevelopment of the Ladderswood Way estate, which was put together by a Conservative administration and is now being carried forward under the Labour-run council in conjunction with the Mayor and the Government, will create 500 homes by 2018. Crucially, it needs transportation links, but opportunities are literally coming down the tracks—Crossrail 2 will be important for the New Southgate area. Opportunities are being harnessed, not least by the London land commission, to draw together everybody who is interested in public land and get them to work together in more co-ordinated way, which has not happened previously. All those things are important.
The London land commission was launched on Monday, so these are significant times. We need additional investment, and I look forward to continued support being announced in the autumn statement. City Hall, central Government and London boroughs are coming together to lock in surplus public land for housing, but we need cross-party support. Sir Steve Bullock, the Mayor of Lewisham said,
“It is vital that our overall strategy to tackle the housing crisis delivers an increase in affordable homes for ordinary Londoners.”
That is important, and we should all welcome it.
The hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton asked about garden cities. In London, it is about garden suburbs. In Barkingside, the local development plan includes building 11,000 homes and five schools and providing 65,000 square metres for employers and community space. That is to be welcomed.
Right to buy will be coming through in the housing Bill. I support the principle of right to buy—people should have the opportunity to own their house—but the reality is that the majority of high-value council houses are in London, so the eyes of the rest of the country will be on whether the right-to-buy scheme is being subsidised through London housing. We need to the challenge the Minister on this. My constituents would not want the receipts from properties rightly bought by tenants of housing associations to go north of the M25.
May I inject a bit of reality on that point? In my constituency, there are 4,800 children living in overcrowded conditions on the housing register. I have had half a dozen advice surgeries since I was elected and half the people who have come to see me are concerned about serious overcrowding. The proposed right-to-buy extension will affect them disproportionately. Some 37% of housing in Camden will fall within the higher value bracket and thus will be sold off at the very time that people in Camden absolutely need it. It is going to make the housing crisis worse, not better.
I understand the hon. and learned Gentleman’s concerns. It will work if we increase the number of homes, and the way to do that is to ensure, in the spirit of localism and devolution, that London gets the receipts of the sales. If, as I suggest, we build two houses for every one sold, we would deal with the concerns about overcrowding and waiting lists in the hon. and learned Gentleman’s constituency and mine.
There is another issue on which London councils need to work better. Particularly in Ealing and Enfield, people are coming up from inner-city boroughs and are being placed temporarily in cheap accommodation. There are not only the costs of the accommodation, but social care costs. Children in care have an associated budget, but children in need have lots of associated costs. London councils need to work much better strategically to ensure that Enfield is not picking up the bill for residents of other boroughs. We need to work much better on that to ensure that Enfield, which does not have a properly fair funding formula and settlement, does not have to deal with that impact.
There are lots of other mayoral candidates and others who want to speak, so I will not go on for much longer. I will conclude by saying that we are a one nation party with a great history, not least on building housing.
I will not. There are too many candidates who want to speak.
The litmus test of a one nation party and Government is how we deal with the housing crisis. In London, we need to ensure that we continue to build more housing than ever before for the benefit of all Londoners.
The length of the speech of the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) proves the failure of self-regulation in the House of Commons and, indeed, anywhere else. I will genuinely attempt to be as brief as possible.
There is an enormous housing crisis in London, and it is getting worse. Someone walking around the streets of London on any night will see the number of people now sleeping rough, without benefits and begging. Every day, people are being evicted from the private rental sector to make way for somebody else moving in on a still-higher rent. There is something brutal and unnecessary about the way in which many people in this city have to live.
The abject failure of Government policy to address the issues of housing in London is making the situation worse and worse. Nothing that the Government have proposed since they were re-elected in May is going to do anything to alleviate the crisis facing large numbers of people in London.
First, there is the idea of cutting most local authority tenants’ rent by 1%. I have no particular problem with that, but I hope that the housing revenue account will be compensated accordingly by central Government; otherwise, it will lead to an investment problem in the future. Then there is the bizarre idea, which I suspect is a Trojan horse for changing the whole local government rent regulation system, of charging market rents for those earning not very high incomes—median incomes. I was talking last night to a well qualified and experienced social worker in a London borough who is worried about applying for promotion, because success would put his salary up, which would more than double his rent. A salary increase of more than £10,000 a year would leave him worse off. That is a ludicrous situation. Council tenants should pay a council rent that they can afford.
Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the aspects of putting up council rents for people who earn a little more is that the earnings will be household earnings, which means that the rent for two people on an average salary in London will go up? Is not putting up rents in that way a tax on aspiration?
My hon. Friend is right. I hope that the Government will think this through and not introduce the regulation. It is unworkable and will lead to a lot of perverse results, unless it is a Trojan horse for something else, as I suggested, putting all council rents on to a completely market level. I suspect that that is in the beady eye of at least some in the Conservative party.
The second area of concern is the private rented sector. More or less a third of the population of my borough live in that sector, often in poor conditions. Most are on six-month assured shorthold tenancies; they have no control over the rent and, in reality, no protection against eviction. We must address the question of the quality and regulation of the private rented sector.
Of my constituents in Hampstead and Kilburn, 33% rent privately. Bearing that in mind, does my hon. Friend agree that we should think about a national register of accredited landlords, to weed out the abuse in the system and the revenge evictions that still happen, even though they are technically banned?
The quality of management of much of the private rented sector is appalling, and the lack of regulation of letting agencies leads to many shocking cases. It is often the most vulnerable people who are victims of what happens in that sector.
The hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate was complaining about the number of people moving in to his borough from other boroughs. Indeed, people from my borough go there—they get moved there because the council has nowhere to put them in Islington. They want to come back. Often they live in poor conditions. The hon. Gentleman is right up to a point that the practice meets a need of the borough; however, it also creates a problem for the children involved. If he goes to any inner-London tube station in the morning, he will see children who travel quite long distances to attend primary school, because their family want to return to the borough they come from and hope desperately to get a council place there to move into. It is a reasonable aspiration, and one obviously hopes for success.
My final point is about sales of council properties. With a £100,000 discount, a vast amount of money is being given to the people who are lucky enough to get a council place. If a tenant of council property buys it and remains there, that does not make much difference to the overall social make-up, the housing stock or anything else; but when they decide to move on, the homes are never sold to people on the housing waiting list. They cannot be. More than a third of the council properties recently sold in my borough have ended up in the private rented sector, often for very high rents. There is something ludicrous about a council rent of £100 to £110 a week being charged for a flat when an identical flat next door is rented for £400 or £500 a week, with most of it being paid for through the housing benefit bill. If this Government deserve a prize it is for subsidising the private rental system in this country.
We need a serious, sensible form of regulation of the costs of housing and particularly the private rented sector. Average rents in Britain are more than double the average for the rest of Europe—in London particularly. We must address the issue, or this city will become even more divided. In 10 or 20 years it will resemble Manhattan. There will be a smallish number of people remaining in council and housing association properties in central London, and those will be the only social rented places available. The rest of the residents will be wealthy enough to buy, or to pay very high rents to live here. All the workforce will travel long distances on trains and buses to keep the city going. We should ask the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry about its concerns for the future London labour market, and we should look at the problems. We are destroying this city by our failure to build enough social housing, regulate what we have and plan for the future, other than by allowing funny money to flow in to buy up large amounts of land and property, which is often left empty and used only as a cash machine.
There are 14 Labour MPs wanting to speak in the debate, so it is disappointing that two Tory Back Benchers spent 25 minutes this morning filibustering on an issue that is important to many of us.
There is a housing crisis. Not enough homes are being built, and those that are being built are not of the right sort. There are not enough homes with a genuinely affordable rent—a social rent linked to earnings rather than market value. There are not enough homes being built for which people can pay a London living rent. There are not enough family homes being built, and there are too many being sold off-plan to people in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia. I have nothing against those countries and the people who live there, but we cannot allow our homes to be used as gold bricks by foreign investors and to sit empty.
It is a con when people talk about the market value of properties. The Mayor has a definition of 80% of market value as affordable. The Valuation Office Agency’s private rental market statistics show that the market rent for a four-bedroom private property is £2,500; for a three-bedroom property it is £1,695; for a two-bedroom property it is £1,400; and for a one-bedroom property it is £1,155. We can see why there is a housing crisis in London, which some people do not want us to talk about in Parliament.
On that point, does my right hon. Friend agree that that definition of affordable housing makes no sense, given that, in a borough such as mine, only a household with an income of £102,000 could reach the threshold of housing costs as no more than 40% of income? That would exclude the overwhelming majority of people in any housing need.
My hon. Friend is right, and that is why there is a crisis. In the King’s Cross scheme, which my hon. Friend the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) will know about, one-bedroom properties are selling at £985,000. The price for a two-bedroom property there is £1.7 million. In Heygate in Elephant Park, a studio flat will cost £569,000 and a two-bedroom property will cost £800,000. It is possible to get a penthouse at a discount, at £2.1 million. We now have a city where developments have “poor doors”. There is a door for people who can afford market value and there are poor doors for those who cannot.
Freedom of information tribunals have shown that developers in Heygate, the Greenwich peninsula and Earls Court have taken advantage of the viability con, which means that they can say it is not viable to build affordable homes. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington North talked about Islington, which now has a new scheme that will be open and transparent. Developers will have to publish their viability assessments for schemes. I do not care whether we use the term “rent control”, “rent cap” or “rent stabilisation”. We need to sort out the rental market in London. More than half the disposable income of those who rent—a quarter of Londoners—goes on rent. That is unacceptable and is a reason why last year more than 60,000 Londoners aged between 30 and 39 left London. We have a brain drain from London caused by the housing crisis.
To compound that, we have—even in the words of the two filibustering Tory Members who spoke in the debate— a housing supply crisis in London. What is their answer? It is to sell off housing association properties and force councils to sell off their most expensive properties. That will lead to a situation in which good councils such as Islington and Camden must sell the new properties that they have built. Social cleansing is taking place in London; we are copying Paris and New York for the wrong reasons.
If the Government are going to force councils and housing associations to sell properties, all that we need is that they should require them to build one before they sell one, like for like in the same area, unless there are exceptional reasons not to. Then London will not become a city for the rich only, with outer London for those who cannot afford to live in inner London. Conservative Members who have spoken may think that a modern London of that kind is acceptable, but those of us who have made the effort to come to this 9.30 am debate, but did not get the chance to speak because of the disgraceful filibustering, want change.
Order. On several occasions, the right hon. Gentleman has tested my patience by using the expression “filibustering”. Nobody in this Chamber has been filibustering and if they had been, I would have brought them to order. I think it is very disappointing that, having relied on self-regulation, that seems manifestly to have failed and I have not been able to call as many Members present whom I would have wished to. However, we now have to move on to the wind-ups, because under the rules laid down by Mr Speaker we have a maximum of 10 minutes for the SNP spokesman. I call Dr Whiteford.
On a point of order, Mr Chope. As Chair, you are of course entirely within your rights not to impose a time limit. However, because Members, particularly on the Government side, have not shown any restraint, and given that this is the most important issue for London Labour Members and that we have come here to try and contribute, I wonder whether the Front Benchers would concede a little time to us, so that we can at least make some contribution. That would seem a fair way to proceed.
Thank you, Mr Chope. I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq) on securing the debate, which I have listened to carefully. I genuinely regret that more London MPs have not been called to speak, because I know that the contributions they have to make are worthy.
What I have heard today leaves me in no doubt about the seriousness of the housing problems facing people in this city and the failure of successive Governments to really grasp the nettle, particularly with regard to affordable housing in London. Although I represent a seat in the north-east of Scotland, I am not a casual observer of what is going on here, because, like all Members from outside London, I spend my working week here. I live in this city when Parliament is in session and I need to find a place to stay too. Even from the very privileged position that MPs have, the distortions and excesses of property prices in London and in the private rented sector in central London are more than evident.
Is the hon. Lady aware that part of the reason for people being squeezed out is the amount of buy-to-let landlords there are now, and that it is easier to become a buy-to-let landlord than it is to become a first-time owner-occupier? Is she also aware that by getting rid of tax relief on buy-to-let mortgages, the Government could raise £6 billion, which would be the equivalent of funding housing associations to provide 100,000 properties in our city?
I am very pleased that the hon. Lady has managed to get those important points on the record, because they are pertinent to this debate and have not really come to the fore yet.
Prices are way beyond the purse of even quite well-paid people in London, and that is just not sustainable. The fundamental and interlinked issues at the heart of this are supply and affordability. A fundamental shortage of housing has pushed rents out of control, the consequences of which have been well rehearsed. The right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) made a key point by saying that someone on an average salary of around £30,000 a year cannot even dream of owning a house that costs nearly half a million pounds.
The average house price in Brent is £384,000, which is 19 times my constituents’ average take-home pay of £19,937. Rent can be 78% of a constituent’s income. That contributes to the housing crisis in London. Does the hon. Lady agree?
I absolutely agree, and I am pleased that the hon. Lady has been able to make her point, albeit quite late in the debate. It highlights the fact that the Help to Buy schemes introduced by the Government will not even touch this problem, because even with those schemes, people are completely out of reach of the market. That takes us back to the point made earlier. It is easier now for someone to have a house in London that they do not live in than it is to have one that they do. In fact, they could probably live off the proceeds of the house in London, if they could get a foothold in the market. We need a housing mix that includes affordable homes not only for the people who have historically lived in the area, but for those who work here in normally paid jobs, whether in the private or public sector.
As hon. Members know, housing is a devolved matter in Scotland. We have property hotspots too and inflated property prices in some parts of the country. We have also experienced a shortage of supply of affordable homes, over getting on for 30 years, and we have inherited a legacy of depleted public housing stock—
I absolutely will, Mr Chope, but I think it is very important for us to understand that some of the ways we have tackled the underlying problems in Scotland might have lessons that are well worth sharing in other parts of the country. The way we have tried to tackle them is very simple: we have tried to build more houses, and our completion rates across all sectors—both private and public—have been much higher. The fundamental problem here is that we are not building enough affordable homes for people. The completion rates in Scotland across the private and the public sectors have been much higher. It is worth making that point because in London the situation is completely out of control and there are very real challenges for any Government in trying to put that right.
A key point raised today, as touched on by the hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn), is the issue of selling off housing association stock. It seems to me to be utterly insane. I cannot believe that any Government, with any sanity, would even attempt to do that, because if there is already a shortage of affordable housing, my goodness, why on earth would we sell off what we have? Hon. Members have made it clear during this debate that the money for which people will essentially be getting a free house could be so much better invested.
Earlier this week, I met the National Housing Federation, which was clear that it could build four houses for the giveaway that one tenant gets. Let us make absolutely no mistake about what will happen to those houses in a very short space of time: they will be sold off to tenants and, within a few years, they will end up back in the private rented sector at exorbitant rents. People will not be able to live in the houses if they are on decent salaries, and if they are on lower salaries, they will be pushing up the benefits bill yet further by having to be supported in their housing costs. The proposal does not address the underlying shortage because it does not build more houses and that money is simply not being reinvested. I wonder how many MPs are renting, in the private sector, homes that were once local authority or housing association homes that have been hived off into the private sector and are now being let at market rents that only MPs and other very privileged people can afford.
The Budget last week was terrible for housing. The point has been made about the changes to social rents. Of course, there are pros and cons to that, but one of the big problems is that it will disincentivise investment by housing association providers here in London. The National Housing Federation said in its initial analysis that it expected 27,000 fewer houses to be built because of the changes announced last week. That seems to be compounding the problem, not addressing it. We also need to look at whether people will be disincentivised from investing at all. The NHF told me that it already knows of one housing association that has cancelled a planned house building project on the back of last week’s Budget.
I cannot but agree with Shelter, which said that last Wednesday was
“a bad budget day for housing and those struggling with housing costs…Only if you invest in affordable homes by rebalancing investment and having a housing strategy that recognises house building, rents, benefits, and homelessness are part of the same problem, can you permanently bring down the welfare bill. If you just slash and burn benefits in the hope people in genuine need will miraculously find well paid jobs, cheaper homes or fewer children, you’re unlikely to succeed in anything but making more people homeless.”
I do not think that problem is more acute in any part of the UK than here in London, where people are often working in low-paid, service-level jobs, but are having to make long commutes into work because housing is now increasingly out of reach.
We know that if we invest in affordable housing, we can tackle the problem at its roots—that we can tackle not just the symptoms of the problem, but the underlying problem. The UK Government need to boost their funding for affordable housing throughout the UK, but I urge them to be much more ambitious. I noted Government Members’ scepticism towards the points made about selling off the housing stock, but we have heard very little about actually building new houses, and the Government’s ambitions for that are woeful. They need to be building 100,000 houses every year because of the lack of supply, and London is at the heart of that. Londoners would benefit from that, and those in average-wage or low-paid jobs would gain a great deal from it, but investment in housing would transform the lives of many people throughout the UK, and that work has to start here.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship again, Mr Chope. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq) on securing this important debate. I share her strong concerns about the urgent and growing housing crisis in our capital city. She gave an excellent review of the problems with housing in London.
It is worth putting on the record how brilliant it is to see so many Labour London MPs here for the debate, representing their constituencies. Despite the very limited time available, we managed to hear from my right hon. Friends the Members for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) and for Tooting (Sadiq Khan), my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) and my hon. Friends the Members for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter), for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), for Ilford South (Mike Gapes), for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes), for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn), for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq), for Westminster North (Ms Buck), for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) and for Brent Central (Dawn Butler).
I congratulate all those colleagues on getting in key points despite limited time. Interestingly, they showed clearly how the policies coming from the Government and the Mayor of London are simply not delivering the housing that their constituents need. They raised important issues about the supply of homes, the quality of homes and delivering genuinely affordable homes. They pointed to increasing homelessness, increasing rents and the subsidy going to the private rented sector that is distorting the market, alongside the acute shortage of land in the capital and policies that will deliver additional land. That was in great contrast to what was said by Government Members, who seemed to be living in a world of housing delivery that has escaped most of us on the Opposition side of the Chamber.
Housing supply is the crux of the crisis. It is estimated that the need for additional housing in England is for up to 300,000 new units a year, or three times the current supply levels. House building has fallen to the lowest level in peacetime since the 1920s. New property listings have declined for four months in a row and have failed to show any meaningful growth for two and a half years.
London is at the heart of the supply shortage. London house prices have increased by 43% in the past five years, primarily as a result of the acute shortage. The average house price in London in 2013 was £475,000, an increase of a staggering £41,000 compared with the previous year. We are looking at a broken market that can be fixed only by bold measures to improve housing supply, particularly in London. As many hon. Members outlined, house price rises in London have outstripped wage inflation and prices have hit an affordability ceiling, with last year’s figures showing the salary to house price ratio at 14 times average wages.
Shortages are pushing up prices not only in London but in surrounding areas as the commuter belt gets wider and wider; that point was made excellently by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington North. To get affordable housing, people are having to move further and further out, often losing their connection with the borough that they want to live in and meaning that children are dislocated. The Government have not addressed that very important issue.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising the point about families having to move further and further away. That is not only a problem for those families because of the social pressures that they face; it also places additional pressure on outer London boroughs, which have their own problems because of a shortage of housing and pressures on the small amount of affordable and private rented housing available. We have the additional pressure of families moving from central London.
I thank my hon. Friend for making an excellent point.
The cost of renting in the home counties has risen by 5.4% in the past six months, with an estimated 47% of tenancies consisting of corporate commuters, so there is an impact on the outer boroughs and on surrounding areas as well. The poorest and most vulnerable have been hit particularly hard by skyrocketing prices as the crisis has deepened. As hon. Members have said, that is increasing the number of homeless people on the streets of London. The figures are shocking: 7,581 people slept rough in London at some point during 2014-15; that represents a 16% rise on the previous year. There is also a huge impact on the number of people claiming housing benefit.
Analysis published by the National Housing Federation earlier this year forecasts that a 21-year-old Londoner will have to wait on average until the age of 52 before they can afford to get a foot on the property ladder if the current price increases continue. More and more people are relying on the bank of mum and dad in order to take out a mortgage. That is increasing inequality in the city.
Worryingly, the CBI has warned that the lack of housing supply is having a massive detrimental impact on social mobility. If the only young people who can afford to live in London are those whose parents already have a home there and can remortgage it or afford to help them with rent or mortgage costs, the recruitment pool is restricted to the children of more affluent members of society. That is not a sensible policy at any level, including economically.
Even the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) acknowledges the need
“to double housebuilding and provide a million more homes by 2025.”
It is just a pity that he is not actually doing anything to deliver on that in London. In fact, as a great many of my hon. Friends pointed out, he is calling in planning applications in order to reduce the number of affordable housing units delivered. Again, that is in contrast to Labour councils in London, which are doing what they can—Islington is a very good example—to deliver more council houses.
The Minister has not answered a question that has been put to him on a number of occasions, which is that, given this policy—[Interruption.] No, outside this debate, but he has another opportunity today to answer the question. Because the Government are requiring or going to require councils to sell off their highest-level stock, will he insist that Islington sells the council houses that it is currently building before they are even occupied by council tenants? That very serious question needs to be addressed.
In the last couple of minutes of my speech, I shall turn my attention to some of the things that I think the Government need to do. First—this point was echoed by many hon. Members—we need a coherent and comprehensive policy to increase housing supply in London that will deliver genuinely affordable houses in communities that people want to live in, with the associated infrastructure and services that are necessary. They do not want to be surrounded by buildings that are empty because the homes have been sold to overseas investors.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. From her previous comments, is it not clear that the Government are not only not taking the action that she proposes, but actively making the situation worse? Forcing the sale of a third of council properties means that the only affordable source of accommodation is being run down and will not be available for people in housing need.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Chope. I congratulate the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq) on securing the debate. We recognise that there is a huge demand for housing in London and there is a real challenge for the Government and the Mayor, who has set himself a significant challenge to meet the needs of the growing population in this hugely important world city. London is an economically important and vibrant place to live and work, and it is crucial that we ensure that the housing market works well.
It has been interesting this morning to listen to a mixture of mayoral and leadership hustings, as well to quotes from George Orwell. I assume that the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton, who quoted one of my favourite authors, will therefore want to support things such as right to buy and the starter homes package, despite the opposition of her Front-Bench team. She has outlined her desire to see more home ownership, which is something that both schemes will deliver.
We have introduced a range of measures to get Britain and—working with and supporting the Mayor—London building again, to fix the broken housing market and help hard-working people to get the home that they want.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Mayor’s task has been made even more difficult by the fact that he inherited a situation in 2010 in which housing stocks were at their lowest level since the 1920s? Council house building was less than half what it has been during the coalition period.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. I find it ironic, to use parliamentary language, that the Labour party makes the case for house building while seeming to forget that it left us with the lowest level of house building since, I believe, 1923, as well as a reduction in the number of social homes. The coalition Conservative-led Government built more council-owned homes than were built during the entire 13 years of Labour.
I will not give way at the moment, because of the time restraint.
Since 2010, we have been able to deliver more than 260,000 affordable homes in England, including more than 67,000 in London alone. We have exceeded the target that we set ourselves for the period to 2015, and we will not stop there. We will ensure that we deliver another 275,000 affordable homes by the end of this Parliament. That is the fastest rate of affordable house building in more than 20 years, and it will benefit communities across our country.
The constituency of the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton will benefit hugely from the resulting housing regeneration. Early work has shown that Old Oak Common alone could result in the development of up to 7,650 affordable homes, and we recognise that high earners in social housing should pay their fair share. That is why last week’s Budget, which some hon. Members who have spoken today have clearly not yet read, not only included our commitment to protect social tenants in England from rising housing costs by reducing their rents by 1% a year for four years, but will ensure that high earners who live in social housing are not being unfairly subsidised at the taxpayer’s expense.
Although the announcement of the 1% reduction in social rents will be welcomed by tenants, it will leave a £16 million hole in Southwark Council’s housing revenue account. Can the Minister give us an assurance that that money will be replenished by the Government to enable Southwark Council’s continued investment in affordable housing?
I would like to see Southwark Council go further in developing more homes and using some of the £21 billion of reserves that councils have built up over the last few years. We are determined to make sure that tenants get a fair deal, particularly where social housing costs have increased at almost double the rate of the private rented sector over the last few years. We are committed to supporting the aspiration of ordinary hard-working people who want to own a home of their own. That is why we will deliver 200,000 starter homes over the course of this Parliament, at a 20% discount on market value.
I will not give way at the moment.
A Help to Buy ISA will help those saving for a deposit to have a better chance of owning their own home. The Help to Buy schemes have already supported a total of 210,000 households since 2010 with the measures we have taken. We intend to go further. We will do more to help people reach that aspiration of owning their own home. We will work to deliver that for 1.3 million housing association tenants, supporting their desire to own their own home and making sure that at the same time we are boosting the housing supply in this country.[Official Report, 7 September 2015, Vol. 599, c. 1-2MC.]
Hon. Members mentioned private sector rates in England as a whole, which have been rising at less than inflation during recent years. We need to make sure that good standards are met, and we are taking steps to improve quality and choice in the sector. That is why we have established a fund to deliver a further 10,000 new homes. We will continue to improve the sector’s professionalism and to make it even more attractive to investors, to deliver more homes. We have taken action to tackle bad landlords so that they either improve or, preferably, leave the sector. That is why I support what the Mayor of London is doing with the London rental standard. We have published the “How to rent” guide and the “Renting a safe home” guide to help tenants better to understand their rights and responsibilities.
Opposition Members have talked about different forms of rent control and tried to argue that they are not rent control as any of us see it. If it looks like rent control and it smells like rent control, as the electorate made clear in the general election this year it is rent control—something that the Labour shadow Secretary of State has already said does not work and will not work. Experiences elsewhere have proven that, and we will not do it.
We are also facilitating new ways of regenerating inner-city estates, as we have seen at City Mills in Hackney. We are looking to kick-start more work to deliver more homes. We believe that we can deliver more homes on brownfield land without adopting the plan of the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) to build across our treasured green belt. We expect to bring more than 134,000 more homes up to the decent homes standard, including around 55,000 homes in London alone. We will be investing a further £160 million to ensure that by April 2016, no more 10% of stock in each local authority does not meet that standard, and £145 million has been allocated to London.
We have, as hon. Members have pointed out, brought forward permitted development rights to get better use of existing buildings, particularly unused office space. There have been 25,700 permissions for home extensions and office-to-residential conversions to date.
Not at the moment.
That is 25,000 more homes for people in London who need them, and I am disappointed that Opposition Members seem to want to prevent Londoners from accessing those homes. That is part of a radical package of planning measures that the Chancellor announced at the Budget last week, including extending the Mayor’s powers to ensure that further work can be done strategically in London to deliver the housing that we all want.
Our new measures will help London to build up, in addition to other building, rather than building out and touching on the green belt that Opposition Members seem so keen to deliver on. We want to deliver more homes for Londoners while protecting that important countryside, which is what residents want. Alongside our planning measures, we will invest £1.3 billion up to 2020 to unlock and accelerate development on large housing sites that are struggling to move forward. We have released enough public sector land to deliver more than 100,000 homes, and we will deliver another 150,000 during this Parliament. Our Get Britain Building investment fund of £500 million will support almost another 10,000 homes.
We are working with the Greater London Authority to support regeneration in Brent Cross to deliver another 7,500 homes, and we are providing £7 million of revenue funding to the GLA over this Parliament to support the delivery of the Croydon growth zone, which will enable the creation of another 4,000 homes and 10,000 jobs. We are engaging locally led development in the form of garden cities. There are several already across the country, including Ebbsfleet, near London.
I look forward to the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton encouraging areas such as hers to deliver more, and we will work with them to do that. We are determined to make the best use of brownfield land to unlock and accelerate housing schemes and deliver homes across our country. The GLA alone aims to deliver 50,000 over the next few years, and we will support the Mayor to do that.
The housing market in our capital is expanding and improving. One thing that we all agree on is the fact that London needs new homes. We do not dispute that. That is why we are committed to improving the housing market in London by working with the Mayor to respond to the capital’s particular housing challenges and helping ordinary Londoners to achieve their aspiration of home ownership. When the Opposition talk about the policies that failed them up to the general election, I gently suggest to them that they should think again.
The Minister did not answer any of the series of specific questions that I asked him, although he gave us a good catalogue of things from whatever he was reading out—it seemed to be some sort of Mayor’s brief. He was asked: does he think that the definition of affordable housing as 80% of market rate is correct, and does he think that there is scope for changing it, because it is simply not affordable for my constituents? It was put to him that the average age of a first-time buyer, unaided, in London is 37—is that right, and what does he predict it will be by the time this Administration leave office? I also put it to him that he could look at alternative models of housing. Would he investigate, for example, co-operative housing solutions? I also asked about key workers, the people who keep this city going: the police, teachers, public servants—