Skip to main content

House Building

Volume 622: debated on Monday 27 February 2017

The Government are committed to building the homes that our country needs. Measures in the recent White Paper will ensure that more homes are planned for where they are needed most and that homes are built more quickly once they have planning permission, and they will diversify the housing market to make sure that it works for everyone.

What actions is the Department taking to ensure that unused public sector land in London is released more quickly for housing development?

My hon. Friend is right to raise the issue of the broken housing market in London. I know that he takes the issue seriously and has done much to help in his own area. My hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning, who co-chairs the London Land Commission, is working on identifying new opportunities to release public land for housing. My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) may also be interested to know that the last autumn statement allocated £3.15 billion to affordable homes in London. The Government have done their very important bit; I now expect the Mayor of London to step up and do his.

Gloucester City Council and Gloucester City Homes have put together a strong bid, with my support, to the estates regeneration programme, which will transform the old estates and wards of Matson and Podsmead in my constituency. Will my right hon. Friend agree to meet us briefly to hear our case, and when does he think decisions will be made on the bids?

My hon. Friend is a strong advocate of regeneration for Matson and Podsmead; he has talked to me about the issue a number of times and I am pleased that he has raised it again. My Department has received a number of bids for regeneration funding across England. We will make funding announcements shortly, but I would be more than happy to meet him and a delegation to discuss the issue further.

Will the Secretary of State come to Huddersfield to see how many private sector new homes have been built? Unfortunately they are nearly all for students. Is it not about time that elderly people up and down our country had the right kinds of buildings and homes? Why can more councils not be liberated to build those homes?

One thing that might have helped is if Labour-run Kirklees Council had thought about all the different types of people from different backgrounds who live in the local area when it put together its local plan. The hon. Gentleman may be happy to learn that our White Paper sets out further requirements for all local authorities to make sure that they look carefully at the needs of their area, including those of older people.

May I extend the condolences of the Scottish National party to the family, friends and colleagues of Gerald Kaufman? He made a considerable impact—more than many others ever get to do—during his career, and we will miss his dignity and experience and his contributions to the House.

The right to buy is not just the right to buy, but the right to buy at a discount of up to £100,000. Anne Baxendale of Shelter has said that the

“extension of Right to Buy would jeopardise any potential profit needed for future housebuilding”.

Will the Secretary of State explain why he wants to make it more difficult for people to access truly affordable housing, as built by local government housing companies?

The Government believe that the right-to-buy policy, including in relation to council housing and its extension to housing association homes, is very important. We will continue to back it, and where a tenant does exercise that right we expect that home to be replaced.

Neighbourhood plans have incentivised parish and town councils to build and deliver more houses by giving them 25% of the community infrastructure levy. Given that the levy is subject to review, is there a plan to continue providing that proportion for local parishes and towns?

I fully agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of neighbourhood plans in getting more ownership of local plans at the local or parish level. That is why the measures we are taking in the Neighbourhood Planning Bill to do just that are very welcome. When it comes to the share of the levy, it is very important to maintain that principle.

Will the Secretary of State consider bringing forward legislation in this House to end the practice of land banking? My constituents are fed up with seeing developers sitting on properties or places without any sign of their building the new homes that we so badly need.

In the year to September 2016, 277,000 planning permissions were granted in England, which is a record high since 2007. I share some of the hon. Lady’s frustration. We want those planning permissions to be turned into homes—people cannot live in a planning permission—and that is why our housing White Paper has a number of measures to deal with just this issue.

Prefabricated dwellings are now built to extremely high standards of both quality and durability. Will the Secretary of State be kind enough to accept an invitation to visit Prestige Park & Leisure Homes in Kettering, which is a pre-eminent manufacturer of high-quality park homes, to see how this sort of dwelling might help him to address the housing problems in this country?

I very much agree with the point made by my hon. Friend. We want to see more innovation and creativity in house building in this country, and factory-built, modular, custom-built or prefabricated homes—call them what you will—have an important role to play. I have seen examples of factories in England, such as those in Bedford and Leeds, and I would be very happy to visit one in Kettering too.

Mr Speaker, from the Labour Front Bench, may I fully endorse the full tribute that you have paid to our dear friend and colleague Gerald Kaufman? Certainly those of us who knew him best will miss him most.

After seven years of Conservative failure on housing, we were told by the Secretary of State that his White Paper would be “a bold, radical plan”, yet when he launched it, he said that his top priority was

“a proper conversation about housing need”.—[Official Report, 7 February 2017; Vol. 621, c. 230.]

After new figures showed that new house building actually fell last year, the White Paper was meant to be a plan to fix the housing crisis, so let me ask the Secretary of State a simple question: how many more new homes will be built by the end of this Parliament as a result of the White Paper?

Time and again, the right hon. Gentleman gets up at the Dispatch Box and talks about the failure to build homes when the evidence is very different. He never refers to his own track record: we saw housing starts fall to their lowest peacetime level since the 1920s. The right hon. Gentleman asked me about the White Paper and its reception, so let me share with him some responses to the White Paper. The National Housing Federation called it a

“positive step in the right direction”.

The Royal Town Planning Institute said that it welcomed the measures, which it had “long campaigned for”. Another one—perhaps he can guess where this came from—is that

“yesterday’s housing white paper points us in a better direction… the proposals…show some promising signs for Londoners.”

Where did that come from? The Mayor of London.

All those organisations will be interested in the question that the Secretary of State cannot and will not answer, which is how many extra new homes will be built as a result of what he calls his new measures in the White Paper? In truth, the White Paper was a white flag on housing, especially on help for first-time homebuyers. Home ownership rose by 1 million under Labour; it has fallen under Tory Ministers since 2010, and it is in freefall for young first-time buyers. Given this, why is Help to Buy helping 20,000 people who are not even first-time buyers, and why is Help to Buy helping over 3,000 people who earn more than £100,000 a year? Will he use the Budget next week to target this taxpayers’ help better and do more for first-time buyers on ordinary incomes?

The right hon. Gentleman will know that we have taken a number of actions since July to boost home building in this country—not just the action outlined in the White Paper, but the £1.7 billion accelerated construction programme, the £3 billion home building fund, the £2.3 billion for the housing infrastructure fund and £1.4 billion extra for affordable homes. The right hon. Gentleman raises the issue of home ownership. As a former housing Minister, he should know that home ownership rates under Labour fell from a peak of 71% to 64%. I have another quote—from him—about the decline in home ownership which, word for word, is that

“I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing”.