Skip to main content

Housing Sector

Volume 658: debated on Monday 8 April 2019

13. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of the (a) build quality, (b) leasehold practices and (c) other elements of the performance of the housing sector. (910274)

I hope that everybody in the House wants to see new build quality improve, and we will soon consult on the details of a new homes ombudsman to make it so. We are also cracking down on unfair leasehold practices. Most recently, on 28 March, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State unveiled an industry pledge to end the doubling of ground rents, and there have been more than 40 signatures from the sector so far.

But the Minister surely recognises that every week there are continuing reports of shoddy workmanship, long delays in putting them right, extortionate leases, which he mentioned, and unfinished roads, lights and pavements. On top of that, we have seen unaffordable housing and eye-watering profits and bonuses. He should not just hive this off to an ombudsman; we need direct action from his Department. This scandal has been going on for far too long.

As a constituency MP with a large amount of house building in my patch, I regularly deal with exactly the sort of problems that the right hon. Gentleman raises, and I make my views known to the house building industry about its duty to produce a high-quality product for its customers, notwithstanding whatever the Government may do. He is quite right that other tools may well be available to us, and we are looking, for example, at what we could do with the Help to Buy scheme to encourage house builders to produce greater quality. I am pleased to note, however, that the recent Home Builders Federation star rating system has shown a general improvement, particularly among the larger house builders, with three now in the five-star zone.

I chaired the all-party group on excellence in the built environment, which recommended a new homes ombudsman, but it was October when the Government agreed to introduce one. Five months on, can I press the Minister to get a move on before he gets promoted to the Cabinet?

My hon. Friend is quite right to point out that Housing Ministers do not last that long, and I am certainly pushing the envelope at nine months, but I will do my best in the time that remains to me to fulfil his desire, because it is an important one. If we are going to get to building 300,000 homes a year for the next generation—I know this is of particular importance to him given his background—these houses have to be fantastic, of great quality and of brilliant design, so that communities will continue to accept them in significant numbers.