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Council Housing: Increasing Supply

Volume 662: debated on Monday 17 June 2019

We have given local authorities the tools that they need to increase the supply of council housing, abolished the housing revenue account borrowing cap, giving councils the freedom to borrow to build new homes, and provided a stable investment environment through a five-year rent deal from 2020.

As vice-chair of Luton Borough Council’s housing committee in the 1970s, I recall that we faced a crisis housing waiting list of 4,000 families, but with the support of the then Labour Government we built and bought thousands of council houses and housed everyone on the waiting list. Now Luton’s Labour council has a crisis waiting list of 12,864 with no hope of housing them all, so will the Government stop cosying up to the billionaires and speculators with promises of tax cuts for the rich and give councils such as Luton the powers and the massive resources they need to provide the millions of good council houses the country so desperately needs?

I am absolutely delighted that the hon. Gentleman has brought up that question, because, frankly, the answer is yes. We want councils to get on with building, which is why we have taken the cap off the housing revenue accounts. We expect at least 10,000 new council houses to be built, so I suggest that Luton gets on with it.

For any type of housing—council housing or private housing—to be built, we need to look at changing the rules around land banking. The Minister is aware that, in a Westminster Hall debate last week, I raised the problems that we have with a particular developer in Hull who is storing up different areas of land and preventing them from being developed. Will the Minister please meet me to discuss this problem in more detail and look at what legislative tweaks can be made to prevent this from happening?

The hon. Lady, as ever, puts her case terribly well. The appropriate Minister would be delighted to meet her.

Crisis and the all-party group on ending homelessness recently appealed to Ministers to prioritise for housing survivors of domestic abuse, but is not it the truth that it is difficult to prioritise anyone because of the social housing crisis—a crisis acknowledged just a few minutes ago by the Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry)? Housing associations and local councils in particular have insufficient stock and limited capacity to build new ones to meet demand, and there are more than 1 million households on council waiting lists. Last year, just 6,500 social rented homes were built. That means that it will take 172 years for everyone on the current waiting lists to get a social rented home. Will the Minister please spell out exactly how she plans to sort out this crisis and offer our people some hope that they can also have a home of their own?

Again, I am absolutely delighted that the hon. Gentleman has asked that question, because we have actually put aside £9 billion for our affordable homes programme to deliver a quarter of a million affordable homes by 2022, including 12,500 for social rent. Let me repeat: we have given councils the ability to borrow against their housing revenue cap. We have taken the cap off. Please will councils get on with it? [Interruption.] As the hon. Gentleman is chuntering from the Front Bench, may I tell him that wonderful councils such as the ever present Conservative South Derbyshire District Council are doing exactly that?