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Homes for Social Rent

Volume 658: debated on Monday 8 April 2019

2. What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of the Government’s target on building homes for social rent. (910261)

Through the affordable homes programme, Homes England will deliver at least 12,500 social rented homes in areas of affordability pressure by March 2022. That is part of our £9 billion affordable homes programme, which will deliver approximately 250,000 additional affordable homes by March 2022.

In Lewisham, 625 families are currently housed in temporary accommodation outside the borough, and many are at breaking point, due to having to travel for hours to get to work or school. Having had its budget cut by 60% since 2010, how does the Secretary of State expect Lewisham Council to build the housing we so desperately need?

By ensuring that the Mayor of London delivers on the £4.8 billion that has been provided to him to build 116,000 affordable homes in London. We have given the Mayor significant funding to deliver on London’s housing agenda. I want to support him and see that happen. Clearly, the responsibility to do so lies with the Mayor.

17. Does the Secretary of State agree that Barnet Council’s plan to deliver 22,000 new homes by regenerating land that has already been developed is a good way of delivering the homes we need without encroaching on the green belt or green spaces? (910278)

I certainly agree with my right hon. Friend. Focusing on land that has already been developed, and indeed on brownfield land, rather than green-belt land, will allow us to cherish our green spaces and the natural environment around us.

The Secretary of State will have noted that the question is specifically about social rented housing. If we are to achieve an overall target of 300,000 homes a year, does he accept that it is imperative that more than 100,000 of those have to be social rented houses, built by housing associations and councils? Lifting the housing revenue account cap is welcome, but does he accept that if we are to deliver that number of homes, the Government will have to give more financial support to councils and housing associations?

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recognise the £9 billion affordable homes programme, and equally the extra £2 billion that has been provided on long-term funding. He will have noted in the recent spring statement that we now have £3 billion to enable housing associations to have funding guaranteed for the delivery of those homes. I hope that he also recognises that the flexibility of the affordable homes programme allows more homes for every pound of Government investment. Clearly, I want to see more homes built, and I want to see more council homes built for social rent too.

Three years ago the Mayor of London clearly promised to build 14,000 more low-cost homes every single year, but he has never touched that target. What has gone wrong and what needs to change?

My hon. Friend highlights the need for the Mayor to step up to the mark and ensure that he delivers on the housing agenda in London. I recognise that delivery has increased in recent years, but the latest net additions data for 2017-18 are worrying; London demonstrates a 20% drop, compared with a 2% rise nationwide. I hope that the Mayor will focus broadly on the housing agenda. We are providing support on infrastructure and other aspects to see that London does deliver.

Does not the evidence suggest that the viability assessment system is suppressing social house building and that it is unnecessary given the high profitability in the development sector?

The right hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point about viability assessments, which we addressed through the national planning policy framework—effectively the high-level planning guidebook —to provide greater certainty for councils and developers. Such assessments can slow the delivery of housing, which is why we took steps within the NPPF.

Two years ago, the Prime Minister at long last admitted that

“we simply have not given enough attention to social housing”.—[Official Report, 22 June 2017; Vol. 626, c. 169.]

Will the Secretary of State confirm that, since the Prime Minister’s admission, his Government have recorded the two worst years for social house building in the 74 years since the second world war?

What I can confirm is that we have delivered more affordable homes over the past eight years of this Government when compared with the last eight years of the previous Labour Government. Indeed, 407,000 affordable homes have been delivered since 2010, which is 40,000 more than the comparable period under the previous Labour Government.

What the Secretary of State is doing is not working, which is why we have a housing crisis. One thing that he did not confirm is the hard fact that social house building has hit a record low under this Government’s watch. He told me recently that he has committed to funding only 12,500 new social rented homes over the six years to 2022, which will not even replace the homes lost through sales in the last year alone. This Government are failing on all fronts; we have a crisis with Brexit and a crisis with housing. When will the Government get serious about building the social rented homes that this country needs?

I can say categorically that this Government are serious about building the homes our country needs. Indeed, that is we why we have committed funding to housing associations and given councils the flexibility to borrow to build. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman when he seeks to compare this Government’s ambition with that of the previous Labour Government. This Government have lifted the cap on council borrowing, and the number of local authority dwellings built under eight years of a Conservative-led Government is over four times the number built under the 13 years of the Labour Government.