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House Building

Volume 607: debated on Monday 21 March 2016

8. What recent assessment he has made of trends in the numbers of housing starts and completions. (904225)

The number of housing starts is up 6% over the last year and the number of completions is up 21%. Both are now at their highest level since 2007.

Since 2010, there have been more than 4,000 new housing starts in Cheshire West and Chester, including 2,500 in Weaver Vale alone, and the number of housing starts is up 91% compared to 2009. Will my hon. Friend remind the House who was Housing Minister when the figures were so low?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. As we have discussed on the Floor of the House before, the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey), the shadow Housing Minister, was the Minister who oversaw the lowest level of house building since, I think, about 1923.

We have seen record numbers of housing starts in Worcester this year, and the proportion that is affordable housing is larger than we have seen for many years. What more can my hon. Friend do, however, to ensure that this strong housing recovery—it led a constituent to tell me, “I’m voting Conservative because I am a builder and I’ve seen things get better over the last six years”—continues and that we continue to deliver on this strong record?

My hon. Friend gives an example of something I hear time and time again. We are the party and the Government who have got house building moving again from our inheritance in 2010, and I am proud to be the Housing Minister who, thanks to the Chancellor, is seeing the biggest house building programme since the 1970s. It is quite a contrast to what we inherited from the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne.

Ah, Mr Hollinrake, I think you know a thing or two about houses—you are an estate agent, man.

I will do my best.

The number of housing starts relies on a proper assessment of housing need. Gladman recently ran a successful appeal in my constituency on the basis that the local authority could not demonstrate a five-year housing supply. There is now a revised assessment by the local authority showing an eight-year-plus supply. Is it time for a definitive assessment of housing need?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. It is important that local authorities plan for the future housing delivery and housing needs of their areas. That is what the local plans are about, and I would encourage all local authorities still working through their local plan to get on with it and make sure they make that provision. He also makes a very good point about the confidence of having a five-year land supply, and we will respond in due course to the evidence from the expert panel group that looked at local plans and reported just last week.