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Council Homes

Volume 669: debated on Monday 13 January 2020

Councils built 26,185 affordable homes between 2010-11 and 2018-19, up from just 2,994 over the previous 13 years under a Labour Administration. We are giving councils the tools to deliver a new generation of council housing. In 2018, we lifted the borrowing caps for councils to deliver 10,000 new homes a year by 2021-22.

But last year 6,287 homes for social rent were built and 10,000 were lost due to right to buy and other conversions. That was a loss of 4,000 social rented homes in our country. Is it not time, first, that the Government used net figures rather than these fantasy “built” figures; and, secondly, that we really reviewed right to buy, allowing councils good conditions and restrictions where there are areas of stress and ensuring that the discount carries on rather than just being pocketed by the individual?

The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that we are consulting on right to buy to see what we can do with the sales receipts. Let me say what this Government have done to support councils in building. We increased to £9 billion the size of the affordable homes programme to which councils can apply. We have reintroduced social rents. We have removed the HRA borrowing caps for local authorities and given £2 billion to housing authorities to help with the ability to increase purchases and build by councils. So this Government are doing far more. Under this Government, social housing has gone up by 79,000, but in the previous 13 years under Labour it fell by 420,000.

There are currently over 20,000 people on the council housing waiting list in Cornwall, yet we are in the ridiculous situation where private pension providers can invest in business development but not in residential development. Will the Secretary of State look at making representations to the Treasury to allow pension providers to invest in social residential housing?

My hon. Friend makes a very good suggestion. That is exactly what the Secretary of State will be looking at—how we get that investment into the housing structure. Under this Government, council housing waiting lists have come down by nearly half a million.

If the Minister is keen to talk about what is happening elsewhere, she will be interested to know that in the last five years, the SNP Government in Scotland have built 80% more affordable housing per head of population than England and twice as much as Wales. When will the British Government catch on to the fact that the housing crisis will not be solved unless they invest adequately in social rented housing?

Obviously, this is a devolved matter, but I want to look at what this Government have done. We have delivered many more affordable homes—nearly 460,000. That is what this Government are all about—ensuring that people have the homes they need when they need them. We are looking to extend all types of home. We are tenure-blind, and we are delivering more homes.

That is all good and well, but there is no point when the Conservative party manifesto commits to promoting and extending the right to buy—one of Margaret Thatcher’s biggest disasters in terms of policy. In Scotland, we ended the right to buy, protecting existing social rented homes and preventing the sale of 15,500 homes over a decade. Why can the Minister not see and understand that it is totally senseless to build new social housing, only to flog it off afterwards?

We believe in home ownership. The right to buy has helped 2 million people get on the housing ladder. Since 2010, nearly 600,000 households have been helped to purchase a home through either right to buy or help to buy, and we are ensuring that the money from the right to buy is helping more homes to be built. In fact, we have sold 119,000 homes, which has helped to build 140,000 more homes. That is what we will continue to do—allow people to own their own homes and support all people at every stage of life in every home they need.

The Minister is completely right that the housing supply jigsaw has many pieces, so we will continue to pump billions of pounds into housing associations such as Walsall Housing Group in my constituency, which has an innovative partnership with Lovell to build 250 mixed tenure houses on the former Caparo engineering works, a brownfield site. Is that the future?

It certainly is. My hon. Friend hits the nail on the head, and he has a lot of expertise in this area. As I have said, our party is tenure-blind, and we help people along the steps to ownership, to get the house they need at the time they need it, knowing that most people want to own their own home.

It is the aspiration of every individual in this country to own their own home, but many local authorities that have built council housing have deliberately set up housing companies to frustrate the right to buy. Will my right hon. Friend look at outlawing that practice, so that people who are tenants in their homes get the right to buy and own their own home?

We will look closely at anybody who is frustrating people’s dream and desire to own their own home. We will continue with the right to buy. We will look at how those receipts are being used, so that we can maximise the new homes being built. Under Labour, 170 right-to-buy receipts bought one new home. Now, we are getting more homes built through the right to buy, and having sold 119,000 homes, we have built 140,000 more.

The Conservatives’ deep cuts to new council and social housing are part of the reason why homelessness has risen so rapidly over the last 10 years. Every day, hundreds of us see the increasing number of homeless people and their belongings in Westminster station and outside this building, but their plight is the same as that of thousands of others across the country who find themselves trying to find somewhere dry and safe to sleep. Does the Minister accept that, if the Tories had simply continued building social rented homes at the level left by Labour, there would now be 200,000 more social rented homes for those who need them, including those who are homeless on Parliament’s doorstep?

What we all know is that, for a long period, demand has outstripped supply. That is why this Government are building more homes, with more homes built in the last year than in the last 30 years. We have delivered 1.5 million more homes since 2010, and we will continue to do that. Of course, we have also brought in initiatives for rough sleeping and homeless people. We have to be fully aware of that, and this Conservative Government are doing a lot more to help those people.