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Volume 627: debated on Monday 17 July 2017

The level of housebuilding has not been matched by demand. Radical reform is needed to build new homes now and in the future. Our housing White Paper set out how we intend to do that and turn around a legacy of decades of not building enough homes.

I think the right hon. Gentleman meant it the other way around—that supply had not matched the demand. I think that that is what he meant.

The Secretary of State will be aware that Cornwall recently received £5 million for community-led self-build housing. Does he support neighbourhood plans that look to provide that facility instead of registered social landlord properties, so that Government Members can give people not only the ladder, but the spade, the spirit level and the trowel, too?

As you say, Mr Speaker, supply has not met demand, and one way of getting that right is to have more self-build homes. I understand that some 255 people have registered in Cornwall Council’s area, and the Homes and Communities Agency is working with igloo Regeneration to deliver 54 plots at Heartlands for people in Cornwall. Our recent announcement of the home building fund—£3 billion in total—can also help.

Telford is a new town that is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary, and it is playing its part in tackling the national housing shortage, so I am delighted that the housing infrastructure fund has been announced to encourage new build. Will the Secretary of State confirm that the fund will also accept bids for the regeneration and renewal of new town infrastructure?

As we have shown in the housing infrastructure fund’s prospectus, we have deliberately given infrastructure a broad definition, so we would welcome bids that would support regeneration. She is absolutely right to highlight that infrastructure is often the missing bit where we need new homes, which is exactly why we launched the fund.

15. Numbers matter, but so does the quality of new homes. I am sure that the Secretary of State will have seen some of the terrible stories in the national press, and I have seen some awful examples recently in my constituency. Why is it that someone can buy goods in a shop and have powers of redress, but if someone spends a fortune on a new home, they can sometimes struggle for months, if not years, to get what they paid for? (900516)

The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight the issue of ensuring that if things go wrong, as they sometimes do, when people buy new homes, owners do get proper redress. Mechanisms are in place, both in the private sector and through statutory means, but the issue needs to be looked at carefully.

I would be grateful if the Secretary of State could confirm why the number of affordable homes built in the last year fell to the lowest level in 24 years.

I can happily tell the hon. Lady that the number of council houses built in the last six years is more than double what was built in the previous 13 years. Council houses offer an important choice to people in terms of affordability. We have seen almost 900,000 homes built since 2010, of which more than 300,000 are affordable homes.

Will the Secretary of State congratulate Exeter’s Labour council on building more council homes and housing association homes in the last 10 years than all the surrounding Conservative districts put together? What more can he do to encourage those rural councils to provide more homes in their market towns and villages, instead of plonking their developments on the edge of cities such as Exeter in unsustainable urban sprawl?

I would like to see all councils playing an active role in getting more homes built in their area. It is to be welcomed when councils work with private partners to deliver more homes themselves. To make sure those homes are in the right place, local people should be involved in formulating the local plan and then the neighbourhood plans.

Balancing supply and demand requires successful developers and confident buyers. Will my right hon. Friend bring in the owners of the freeholds, who are making a misery of the lives of people in leasehold houses, and the developers who are trying to put things right? People such as Adriatic, frankly, look like modern-day robbers.

I commend my hon. Friend for his work in this area to show up the leasehold abuses that take place, especially when it comes to buying new houses. He will know that we said in the White Paper that we will be bringing forward proposals, and I can confirm to him that we will be doing so very shortly.

The Prime Minister has blamed weak housing policy for the Government doing so badly at the election and, now, a Government official speaking for the Secretary of State said the same thing yesterday, but blaming “selfish” Conservative councils who are not telling the truth about housing needs in their area. Is it not the truth that this is a desperate bid to shift the blame from the Secretary of State, who is failing on all fronts on housing? With affordable housebuilding now at a 24-year low, will he change tack and back Labour’s plan to build 100,000 new genuinely affordable homes? He can even offer it to the Prime Minister, and we will back him to see it through this House.

The right hon. Gentleman wants to know the truth, and the truth is that, when he was Housing Minister at the end of the last Labour Government, housing starts fell to their lowest level in almost 100 years —that is the truth. Since then, new-build housing starts are at a nine-year high. If he supports us on implementing the housing White Paper, we can work together.