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Property Purchase Schemes

Volume 605: debated on Monday 8 February 2016

I associate myself with your sentiments, Mr Speaker, about our former colleague, Harry Harpham.

This Government are committed to increasing home ownership. More than 130,000 households have purchased a home through Help to Buy since 2012. We have just launched London Help to Buy, and I can tell the House that in the first seven days, 15,000 people have registered to take advantage of it. Since April 2010, more than 53,000 homes have been sold to tenants under Right to Buy, and a voluntary Right to Buy scheme will give 1.3 million more families the opportunity to do so.

Bovis Homes, a major employer in my constituency, commends Help to Buy as a tremendous initiative, but we all know that we need more small-scale developers in the supply chain to increase the supply of homes to which Help to Buy can apply. Does my right hon. Friend agree that large-scale developers franchising some of their plots to small and medium-sized developers is one way of getting those small-scale developers into the supply chain?

I do agree with my hon. Friend. One of the effects of the financial crash was that many small builders left the industry, and we need to get them back and involved. My hon. Friend has a good idea. The direct commissioning scheme that we have announced, whereby we can carve up public sector land into small plots so that small builders can take advantage of it, will be a big step forward, too.

We should have an end to these excuses. There is a generation in the rented sector who have no hope of owning their own homes. Is it not about time that we had some bold, imaginative policies? How many new towns are there? How many new generations of building are going on? How many houses are being built in Ebbsfleet, for example, which is supposed to be a new town? Will the Secretary of State answer that?

Over the last five years, home ownership, and particularly house building, has been revived from the crash that happened under Labour. The hon. Gentleman should welcome the planning reforms that we made, which have increased planning permissions by 50%. He should welcome the introduction of starter homes to give first-time buyers a foot on the housing ladder. He should welcome the extension of Help to Buy, which has helped so many people to achieve their dream of a home of their own.

Right to Buy does not apply to rural exception sites. Does the Secretary of State therefore agree that affordable housing in rural areas is absolutely key?

I do agree with my hon. Friend. In providing homes in all communities for all types of people we need to make sure that we have diversity of tenure, especially in rural areas. My hon. Friend is right.

The idea that any of these schemes are affordable is an Orwellian myth. In my constituency, people need an income of £70,000 to be able to get an affordable home, and that is going up to £90,000 before long. To whom is that affordable?

I do not think the hon. Gentleman does a good service to his constituents. He should know that under the combination of Help to Buy and shared ownership, the deposit that a London first-time buyer can be required to pay on the average price paid of £385,000 is as low as £4,800. The hon. Gentleman would do his constituents a service by promoting these schemes to them.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s comments about the importance of the small and medium-sized building sector. Does he agree that one of the most damaging things that could happen to that sector’s involvement in London would be the imposition of a 50% affordable housing target across sites, which would have no relation to the viability? As experienced under Ken Livingstone, this would actually drive developers away from bringing sites forward.

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. It is not a matter of speculation but a matter of fact, because, as he says, the last Mayor tried that, and the amount of available housing in London fell. We want to provide homes for Londoners. The present Mayor has an exemplary record in providing affordable homes—indeed, homes of all types—ahead of the targets, and the £400 million that is being invested in the 20 housing zones across London is a tribute to his tenacity.

I am pleased to say that hundreds of families in my constituency, and in the local authority area of North East Somerset, have benefited from the Help to Buy and Right to Buy schemes, but young families still cannot get on to the housing ladder because of the high cost of housing. Will the Secretary of State meet me, and other Members whose constituencies contain high-value areas, and will he undertake to roll out the two-for-one guarantee in those areas?

I will certainly meet my hon. Friend and his colleagues. It is essential for homes to be built in every community, so that young people and rising generations throughout the country have a chance to continue to be part of the communities in which they were born and raised.