I join others in welcoming my right hon. Friend the new Secretary of State on his return to Government, and trust that he will not forget his Essex roots.
Conservative-controlled Southend-on-Sea Borough Council is keen to deliver as many new affordable homes as possible, so will my hon. Friend the Minister encourage local authorities to engage with innovative schemes that benefit the wider community, such as ZEDGeneration and the Ferdinand brothers legacy project?
We encourage all ambitious local authorities to be as innovative as possible, and my hon. Friend will know that in 2016 Southend council received £122,000 and Genesis Housing Association £420,000 for the regeneration of the centre of Southend, and that includes Conservative plans for more affordable homes.
We want York to get its local plan in place; that is the best thing for the community, as it gives certainty and a greater chance of those homes being delivered. A local authority statement of community involvement is an essential part of that process and it will be tested against the statement in due course.
My constituents recognise that we need more homes but are concerned about overstretched infrastructure and public services. What are the Government doing to ensure that those areas that are willing to build the most homes will get the maximum amount of funding for new infrastructure and public services?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and that is why we have brought forward £5 billion of approved funding for infrastructure funding—both viability funding and forward funding—which will unlock 600,000 new homes. The criteria are calibrated to make sure that the investment goes where there is the greatest demand for homes and where we can deliver the most homes and the best bang for the taxpayers’ buck.
When the Minister looks at new housing, will he ensure that it is actually affordable to constituents on average incomes? Will he also look at the position of leasehold homes, which are still being sold in my constituency, in spite of commitments from the previous Secretary of State, because those homes are not affordable on an ongoing basis?
The No. 1 way to improve the affordability of homes is to increase the supply, which is why our agenda is to get the number of new homes built per year up to 300,000. I looked at the Labour party’s Green Paper and it seems to suggest going back in the overall number of homes delivered each year. As the Secretary of State has already said, we have delivered more affordable homes in the past seven years than were delivered in the last seven years of the previous Labour Government.
Will the Minister meet me and other members of the Right to Build Expert Task Force—one member is one of his own civil servants—so that we can brief him on the great work it is doing in increasing housing numbers and improving quality and customer choice?