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House Building

Volume 617: debated on Monday 28 November 2016

The Government are investing over £25 billion over this spending review period. Our home building fund will help small builders, our accelerated construction programme will see more homes built faster, and we announced a further £1.4 billion for our affordable homes programme in last week’s autumn statement.

I thank the Secretary of State for his response. He will be aware that communities welcome development all the more if the architecture is sympathetic to the local vernacular, artisan builders are involved in the development, and the environment is respected. In achieving all of those ends, what role do garden villages have to play?

We will be supporting a number of garden villages—those that are committed to being well-designed communities and that will stand out as exemplars of good development for years to come. We will ensure that there are real and important benefits that are rightly secured from the outset: quality, design, cutting-edge technology, local employment opportunities, accessible green space, and fantastic access to public transport.

Will the Secretary of State give a bit more information about last week’s statement? Will the extra money for additional affordable homes be for affordable homes to rent, which have so far been lacking from the Government programme? Will the relaxation of restrictions on Government grant to allow a wider range of housing types mean that the whole of the Homes and Communities Agency’s £8 billion fund can be bid for with packages involving affordable homes for rent? At the same time will the Secretary of State say that, on section 106 agreements, priority will continue to be given to affordable homes for rent?

The Chairman of the Select Committee asks a number of questions. [Interruption.] I will answer most of his questions, but we have a number of opportunities to speak and perhaps I can give more detail then. The high priority the Government place on affordable homes was made clear by the Chancellor last week, and I can confirm that the £1.4 billion he announced is additional money. We estimate that it will lead to about 40,000 additional units. We have given housing associations the flexibility to decide on the types of unit—whether they are to rent or otherwise—which is precisely what they have asked for.

Under Labour, when more homes were built there was not the investment in infrastructure in constituencies such as mine. That has changed under this Government, particularly with last week’s announcement of £2.3 billion in the housing infrastructure fund. Can the Secretary of State confirm to my constituents that they will also see the sort of investment we need to see in roads and rail, particularly on the Wessex route, which is now chronically overcrowded?

My right hon. Friend makes an excellent point about the importance of infrastructure if we are to unlock our housing sites. She rightly referred to the £2.3 billion of additional funding announced last week. There is over £1 billion of new money for transport projects as well, which will also go towards releasing homes and easing congestion, which she can also make use of locally.

The Secretary of State was a bit vague in his answer to the hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), the Chair of the Select Committee, on the Government’s intention to build and develop homes for social rent, which ought to be a significant part of their intentions to help people who do not want to, or cannot afford to, buy their home. When will he bring forward a plan—such as the Scottish Government plan to build 35,000 social rented houses—for England.

I have referred to this at the Dispatch Box a number of times. We have seen a massive increase in affordable homes in England, involving more than £8 billion during this Parliament and an additional £1.4 billion announced last week. This is leading to thousands of new affordable homes, which is something that Scotland could learn from.

Shelter has said that starter homes “will be a non-starter” for those who are just about managing. People on low incomes simply cannot afford the deposit for those houses. Would the Secretary of State not do better to look at how Scotland is investing in social rented housing and affordable housing for people who are just about managing?

The hon. Lady might be interested to know that Shelter’s chief executive welcomed the autumn statement for increasing the number of affordable homes and for providing some of the flexibility that had been asked for. Shelter is an organisation that we work with and listen to, and we will continue to do so.

Given that half the new homes will be leasehold, and that part of the problem stems from the present and potential abuse of the system, will my right hon. Friend please get together with representatives of The Sunday Times and The Guardian, and others who are covering these abuses, to ensure that ordinary people buying their first home do not find that it is unsaleable and of no value when they decide to leave it?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. We must ensure that the kind of abuse he mentions is stamped out. We work with a number of stakeholders, and we will certainly see how we can do more.