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Social Housing

Volume 658: debated on Monday 8 April 2019

On top of our £9 billion affordable homes programme, we have reintroduced social rent, removed the housing revenue account borrowing cap and announced £2 billion of long-term funding, and we are setting a long-term rent deal for councils and housing associations.

There is currently a prohibition on the inclusion of residential properties in personal pensions such as self-invested personal pensions, which leaves potential accommodation over shops empty or unconverted. Will my hon. Friend work with his colleagues in the Treasury to reform these rules, provided that the properties are let out at a social rent?

No one, but no one, works as hard as my hon. Friend on housing policy. There is not a time when I appear at the Dispatch Box that he does not badger me with some new idea. He obviously takes his moral duty to the next generation to build the housing they need very seriously, and I would be more than happy to walk arm in arm with him down Downing Street to No. 11 to propose exactly that idea.

It is disappointing that the Government have scrapped their one-for-one target. My local Labour-run council, Hyndburn Borough Council, wants to build some social houses on the Clayton triangle. What support can the Minister guarantee to make sure that those social homes are built on the Clayton triangle?

Of course, one change we have made is to allow local authorities to bid into the affordable homes programme, specifically to support their house building aspirations. We have lifted the HRA borrowing cap, so the hon. Gentleman’s local authority is free, in a way that it was not before, to borrow that money. I point out to Opposition Members that one of the most debilitating parts of the debate about housing is their inability to accept that this Government and the coalition Government before us were faced with a catastrophic financial framework within which to build the homes that the next generation needs. It has taken time to recover capacity in the house building industry and in local authorities to achieve the kind of aspiration he wants to see.

I congratulate the Government on their ambitious targets, but is the Minister aware that on the Isle of Wight there is deep concern about the housing targets and the lack of affordable housing? Fewer than 100 units were built between 2015 and 2018. I hope that my council will apply for exceptional circumstances to lower its targets in the interests of our tourism economy and quality of life, but to ensure that a much higher proportion of that is built for social housing. Will he meet me to discuss this issue further?

I think a feeling that everybody shares across the House is the desire to address what is undoubtedly a housing crisis. Governments of all stripes over the past 30 or 40 years have failed to build the houses that the country needs. We are applying significant resources to try to correct that problem.

My hon. Friend raises an important issue, in that local authorities also have a duty to put their shoulder to the wheel to deal with the housing problem. Through the national planning policy framework, we have put the power to do so in their hands. It is perfectly possible for his local authority to produce an authoritative and ambitious local plan that both satisfies the aspirations of local residents for the kind of housing they want and sends a signal to the development community about what it should be doing on the Isle of Wight.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has advised the Government that they need to do more to support neighbourhood planning in deprived areas. Does the Minister agree that he should give additional powers to town and parish councils to facilitate that and to ensure that all areas, especially those with acute need, are able to plan for and deliver the homes, including the social housing, that they desperately need, while also improving their wider built and natural environment?

The hon. Lady identifies a significant intention of ours on planning policy, which is to put local communities of all types and in all parts of the country in control of planning. It is the case, unfortunately, that over the past 30 or 40 years many neighbourhoods have felt that they are victims of the planning system rather than its masters. We are keen to promote the use of neighbourhood plans in all sorts of areas—urban, rural or wherever it might be—so that local people are in control of the disposition, size, place and type of housing they want, subject to their joining us in the general mission to satisfy what is undoubtedly a huge desire in the next generation for new homes.