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Affordable Homes Programme

Volume 731: debated on Tuesday 25 April 2023

[Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the Affordable Homes Programme.

It is a pleasure to serve once again under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I am so glad to have secured this important debate on the affordable homes programme, and I am immensely grateful to the House authorities for granting it.

Affordable housing is one of the most depressing and urgent issues facing the good people of Slough and communities across our country. Rarely does an advice surgery go by without a constituent raising concerns about their dire housing situation. Although I commend the bold ambitions of the affordable homes programme, which aims to build 180,000 new homes outside London by March 2026, it is clear that when it comes to delivering on housing the Government continue to fall far short of the mark. The reality is that we face an affordable housing crisis. The basic promise made to each generation that if they work hard they can one day own their own home has been broken.

I speak to young people in their 20s and 30s, often with children, who tell me the same thing: they have as much chance of settling on the moon as they have of buying a home in Slough. This week the estate agent’s window shows a four-bedroom house in Slough for £750,000, a two-bedroom bungalow for £525,000 and a one-bedroom flat for £300,000. Even with an elusive 5% deposit mortgage, those prices are way beyond the reach of shopkeepers, teachers, nurses, home care assistants, police officers, firefighters and even junior doctors.

Since the Conservatives came to power about 13 years ago, 800,000 fewer households under 45 own their home, and 1 million more people are renting—so much for the “property-owning democracy”. The answer would be a renewed social rented sector, but the number of truly affordable homes being built has fallen by 80%. The system is broken and the Conservative Government are doing next to nothing to fix it.

We are all aware of the housing crisis that Britain faces, but I am pleased we have a Labour-led council in Manchester that understands the problem and has set out a plan to build at least 10,000 affordable homes across our city in the next decade, with more than 1,000 affordable homes and 250 new council houses in the coming year. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Tory Government in Westminster are failing to match the vision of Labour councils to tackle the housing crisis?

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I commend Manchester City Council, the Mayor of Greater Manchester—my good friend Andy Burnham—and others who have made sure that councillors and Members of Parliament have come together to have that ambitious house building programme, but it seems the Government are asleep at the wheel. They have made bold statements, but are not following through. I am sure it has nothing to do with the fact that one in four Tory MPs are private landlords.

The much respected organisation Shelter reports that there are 1.4 million fewer households in social housing than there were in 1980. Combined with excessive house prices making homes unaffordable, demand has been shunted into the private rental sector, where supply has been too slow to meet need. That means above-inflation increases in rents, especially in the south of England and in places such as Slough.

On the affordable homes programme, the National Audit Office reports that there is a 32,000 shortfall in the Government’s original targets for building affordable homes. It goes on to say that there is a “high risk” of failing to meet targets on supported homes and homes in rural areas. Ministers’ targets will be confounded by double-digit inflation, soaring costs of materials and supply disruption, yet the Government seem to have no clue how to mitigate those factors. Perhaps the Minister will enlighten us today. As the NAO report outlines, the issue is not just the number of homes, and I share the NAO’s concerns that there is also a lack of focus on the quality, size and environmental standards of the new homes. Perhaps the Minister will also be able to provide some reassurance on those important points.

The NAO is not the only one with concerns about the delivery of the programme. I am pleased that the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Dame Meg Hillier), is here for the debate, and I am sure she will attest to the fact that in December the Committee’s report outlined that the Minister’s Department

“does not seem to have a grasp on the considerable risks to achieving even this lower number of homes, including construction costs inflation running at 15-30% in and around London.”

Exactly when will the revisions to the 2021 plan be published, as recommended and agreed by the Minister’s Department?

The fact is that we need a renewed national effort to fix the housing market and fulfil the promise of owning one’s own home to the next generation. That national effort may well have to wait for the election of a Labour Government, which will have a target of 70% home ownership.

I thank my hon. Friend for this important debate. Under the leadership of Ian Ward, Birmingham has committed to having 60,000 additional houses, but unfortunately, as my hon. Friend says, cost rises mean that that will be difficult to achieve. Also, housing associations create traps for people in my community, who are unable to afford to buy their properties or to have their children take them over. That is not the way forward; we need councils to be properly resourced to build the houses.

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, and I commend the work of Councillor Ian Ward, whom I met recently. During my recent visit to Birmingham, I was able to meet council members, who spoke about their hopes and aspirations, but also to the constraints on them given limited resources from Government—indeed, they alluded to the high inflation they now have to contend with.

People sometimes say, “How can there be a housing crisis when there are cranes on our skylines and new houses and flats going up all over?” But those homes are rarely affordable and are often snapped up by investors off plan. Many remain empty—an investment by overseas property tycoons. That leaves hollowed-out communities with flats but no residents. That is why I am so glad that the Labour party has pledged to close the loopholes developers exploit to avoid building more affordable housing and give first-time buyers first dibs on new developments. I very much hope to hear more about those exciting plans from the Labour party spokesman, my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook), later in the debate.

My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech. It is not just Labour councils but Conservative-controlled councils that give land to the developers. There is one development on Broadway where the average house costs £800,000, which is way beyond the reach of most of my constituents. Does my hon. Friend agree that, as well as putting targets on developers, we must give housing associations the freedom to build houses? We see people at our surgeries crying out for homes. We must look at the need and then give housing associations the freedom to build those houses.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention. The experiences she has at her advice surgeries talking to her constituents chime neatly with what I am being told. Yes, we must empower housing associations and others to build homes. The focus especially on building council homes is incredibly important, because that is where we as a nation are failing. There is huge demand for council housing in particular, not just in Walsall but in my constituency, but there is just not the supply to go around. That must urgently be looked at. Those targets are being missed.

I hope that Labour will end the scandalous practice of foreign buyers purchasing swathes of new housing developments off plan before local people can even see them. We will strengthen the rights of tenants with a new private renters charter. Only a generation ago a couple in work could aspire to get on the property ladder, to eventually pay off their mortgage and to give their children a helping hand. Today, that dream is out of reach for millions thanks to the utter failure of this Government. The Housing Minister, the hon. Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean), is the 15th since the Tories came to power and the sixth to hold the post in the past 12 months alone. What hope do ordinary people have with such chaos at the very heart of Government?

Labour will build the homes that people need. We will take steps to meet demand in the decades to come and we must also boost social housing, as I said to my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz). That is how a Labour Government will fix Britain’s broken housing market for people in Slough and across our nation.

If the Government cannot, or will not, commit to matching Labour’s focus on this vital issue, if they cannot deliver genuinely affordable homes and if they continue to let this programme fall even further behind, they should just admit that they have given up trying to help the millions struggling with housing across our country.

I commend my hon. Friend on his speech on this really important issue. Does he agree that language is very important and that the word “affordable” suggests something that people on a normal income could afford? However, we all know that the word “affordable” in housing circles actually means 80% of market rent, which is unaffordable for most people. In some of the constituencies represented by Members present, that is unaffordable even for the Member themselves.

I thank my hon. Friend for that very valid point. It is one that many of us have been making for years. Definitions are incredibly important. What is affordable to one person is unaffordable to another. That is why a laser-like focus, on social housing in particular, is incredibly important; many people cannot afford to get into the private rented sector, let alone buy their own home. I fully agree with my hon. Friend.

The Government must act urgently. If they cannot, perhaps they should step aside for those of us who want to, and can, deliver the transformative changes needed to guarantee that home ownership once again becomes a reality for all generations.

The debate can last until 4 pm. I am obliged to call the Front-Bench spokespeople no later than 3.37 pm, and the guidelines are that the Opposition spokesperson and the Minister should have 10 minutes each. The mover of the motion will have three minutes to sum up the debate at the end. Until 3.37 pm, which is just under an hour away, we are in Back-Bench time. I am confident that everyone will get in if no one speaks for too long.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I start by thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Mr Dhesi) for securing this debate.

Britain’s housing market is broken. Renters have been priced out of the cities they have called home for their entire lives. Young people cannot get a foot on the ladder, and most of the homes that are built are unaffordable. Research by Crisis and the National Housing Federation found that, over the next decade, 145,000 affordable homes must be built each year, with 90,000 of those for social rent, if we are going to meet housing needs in England alone. The truth is that we are nowhere near meeting the overwhelming need that already exists. With only 13% of homes built between 2021 and 2022 designated for social rent, it is clear that the Government are not taking this crisis seriously. The scale of the challenge ahead is monumental, and Ministers have their heads in the sand, hoping it will all just go away.

Let me demonstrate the problem to the Minister, using statistics from my constituency, which has been badly affected. The statistics clearly outline how the housing crisis in this country has spiralled out of control over the past 13 years. In Coventry, the number of new social housing lettings has fallen by more than a third over the past decade. Looking at the most recent figures, 1,939 of the new social housing lettings were in the most affordable category, down from over 4,000 10 years ago. We have nearly 6,000 households stuck on the waiting list, chasing the handful of homes that ever become available.

Behind those numbers are the lives of thousands of constituents whose futures are being robbed from them by a lack of decent housing. I want to give three examples of constituents who have been affected. The first has four sons, who are cramped into one bedroom, denied any privacy or space to revise for next month’s exams. The lack of any ground-floor flats has left the second constituent, crippled from a lifetime of hard physical labour, sleeping on his sofa and doing his washing in the sink. My third constituent is a cancer patient who needs round-the-clock care but who is trapped in a tiny bedsit up a flight of stairs he can barely climb, with no facilities for anyone to stay with him overnight and nowhere to move.

What more evidence do the Government need to accept the scale of the housing crisis that has grown and grown since they came into power? Change is overdue. The inaction of Ministers has left us gripped by a planning and development free-for-all where developers hold all the power. They decide which type of homes are built, where they are built and the prices they are sold for. They are accountable to absolutely nobody—not residents, not local councils and not even the Government in Westminster. Even as we speak, thousands of Coventry families are being denied a modest social home, while historic hedgerows and badger setts are being torn out in Keresley by developers constructing half-a-million-pound executive mansions, which are irrelevant to local need and built solely for private profit.

The big picture is really bad. The specifics of the planning system, however, are even worse. Take housing targets. Coventry has long been singled out for unfair treatment by this Government, who demand that more and more houses be built every year but do nothing to ensure there is enough social housing for those in need. For years, Whitehall ignored Coventry’s residents and councillors, who said time and again that the projections were wrong. Time and again our concerns were cast aside, with Ministers simply too gutless to order an investigation that might uncover an inconvenient truth. Tacked on to this is the 35% uplift—a further inflation of figures that bear no relation to the lack of brownfield sites in our city or the housing mix Coventry residents need.

Thanks to the census, the facts are now clear. The Government’s population estimates were wrong by a massive 30,000 people, rendering the plans drawn up as a result of those figures virtually worthless. Now our councillors are left having to revise the local plan to make up for the unforgivable errors of Ministers—errors that the council reported long ago and that were ignored by those in Westminster, despite the fact I raised the issue on several occasions with the Minister’s predecessor.

As it stands, the planning system is a shambles. A complete overhaul is desperately needed, with local communities and local government in the driving seat. That way, they can set the direction of travel for new developments in their neighbourhood, delivering affordable homes for families exactly where they are needed. The housing crisis will only get worse unless the Government reform planning and deliver for the needs of people up and down the country. I hope the Minister will outline what steps the Government are taking to achieve that reform.

I thank my good and hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Mr Dhesi) for securing such a vital debate on affordable housing. I echo a point made by Members across the Chamber. My definition of affordable housing, and certainly that of my constituents, is somewhat different from the Government’s definition of 80% of market rents. That is certainly not affordable for people in many cities, including those in the south-east, London, Birmingham and Manchester, or for people in parts of my constituency. It is beyond the reach of far too many people. All we have to do is look at the evidence, with 1.2 million people and rising on the housing need register and the 300,000 children referenced by the National Housing Federation living in cramped accommodation, sharing beds with siblings. It is simply not good enough. It demonstrates that the housing crisis is one of affordability up and down the country.

I could also refer to the pitiful number of homes—7,400—built for social rent last year. When we take into account those lost through right to buy and demolition, we see that the actual figure for last year was minus 14,000. If we map every year over the last 13 years, we see that the average net loss is about 12,000 homes, which is simply not good enough.

The evidence from the National Housing Federation and Shelter, which was referenced by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry North West (Taiwo Owatemi), shows that about 90,000 homes for social rent should be built every year over a decade. How could the Government fund that? They could reconfigure the affordable homes programme of £11.4 billion and stop much of the £23 billion of housing benefit going to substandard housing, as evidenced in a City Hall report last year.

I want to focus on a particular development in the Weaver Vale patch that could be completed if a Government Minister were to intervene. Homes England is involved in the development. A number of developments are taking place across Weaver Vale in Helsby, Sandymoor and Hartford, which will result in more than 1,000 properties being built. A number of them will be built through section 106 in terms of housing associations. The properties are probably three-quarters completed, but they are now subject to vandalism because Lane End Developments, which was based in Warrington, has gone into administration. The same is true of other market-led developers, given the downturn in the market and the fact that planning applications are down by 16%.

My plea to the Minister, who is currently rather busy on his mobile phone, is for him to intervene on the development. [Interruption.] Yes, thank you for taking notes. I have written to Homes England. The development would meet targets that the Government no longer seem to have, but it would also, importantly, ensure that constituents in my patch could fulfil their dreams and hopes. It would enable some to get on to the property ladder, some to go into shared ownership, and others to get homes under the current definition of affordable rent. Of course, what we need is 90,000 houses a year and a generation of social housing. I look forward to the day when we have a Labour Government who can realise that ambition.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Mr Dhesi) on securing this vital debate. He highlighted that the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office have looked into this issue. I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and declare that I am the landlord of a property in the private rented sector.

Affordable housing is critical for my constituency. Many of my constituents live in very overcrowded conditions, as my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry North West (Taiwo Owatemi) highlighted. Every week I am out on doorsteps, doing surgeries and visiting people where they live. There are many examples of four children sharing a bedroom, and of a family living in the living room and another in the bedroom. Families are experiencing severe overcrowding without any hope of moving out. I will touch on that in a moment. Too many people just cannot afford to rent in the private sector or to buy, given that rates are very high, and the Government have changed the definition of “affordable” repeatedly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) highlighted. Crucially, we are just not building enough housing.

The record of the affordable homes programme speaks for itself. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, on whose behalf the Minister is here to answer, set out to deliver 180,000 homes in 2021. It has already downgraded that forecast to 157,000 homes, but half of them will be for ownership, not rent. I am not someone who wants to get in the way of home ownership, but it is not even a distant dream for those of my constituents for whom renting privately is not an option. They just need somewhere to live, so we need social housing in London. Of course, the impacts of inflation and construction challenges put the figure of 157,000 at even more risk. The Government’s original intention was to build 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s. Some of them were to be affordable homes, but we have not been given a figure, so I want to delve into that.

Let us pick up on the issue of definitions. Perhaps the Minister could take away the thought that we are conflating or confusing a multiplicity of markets. We have the full ownership market, but we also have affordable home ownership and shared ownership, which poses challenges for many people because they are liable for the whole property but own only part of the equity and pay rent on the rest. The term “affordable” was defined by the previous Mayor of London and former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), as 80% of private rents. Well, good luck with that in Hackney, where it is simply unaffordable for many people.

There are various definitions for key worker housing, depending on where the development is—the term is very ill defined in law and regulation. At least social rented housing has a rent escalator model set out in law, so tenants have an idea of what they will be paying. That has, of course, been capped because of inflation rates. I welcome that for residents, but it does also create a problem for properties in desperate need of investment. There is also, of course, the private rented sector. Although it has been subject to more regulation, there is nothing about the level of rent and it does not have anything like a rent escalator model. That means that tenants can find their rent going up exponentially after spending only a year in their home. We are increasingly seeing that across the piece in my constituency and throughout London.

Social housing is critical. There are people in Hackney who work hard in good jobs, such as the hospital porter I visited, who is renting a room in a private home. He was living with his daughter, and they rented a room each in a private home. When the private landlady put up the rent from £400 to £550 a month for each room, they could no longer afford to rent two rooms, so he was living with his then 17-year-old daughter—she is now nearly 20—in one private room, because he could not qualify for social housing. As he was not homeless, he would not even get into temporary housing—not that that is a pathway people want to go down.

Five years ago, if people had been in temporary housing for six months I would encourage them to hang on in there because a prized council or housing association property would eventually become available. It is now increasingly the case that people spend more than three years in temporary housing. Recently, a family I was dealing with were rehoused from Hackney to Wellingborough. There are other examples, with the excellent head of homelessness at Hackney Council, Jennifer Wynter, saying that this is the worst situation she has known in her long career, and warning all of us not to raise people’s hopes that a home in Hackney will be a real possibility.

The Department’s own figures show that homes built for social rent provide higher value for money than those built for ownership. This thoughtful Minister used to be a member of the Public Accounts Committee. If he looked at the figures, I think that he, along with the Secretary of State, could be an advocate in his Department for social renting housing. The problem is that the Government, who are not meeting their targets, are chasing numbers, which means fewer social rented properties for the money. We want to see more homes, but we need social rented housing, and it is no good building homes that people just cannot afford to live in. We have a sore need for such properties, yet the Government rejected the Public Accounts Committee’s recommendation to assess the demand for social rent.

Sometimes the Government also respond to reports in a confusing way. A recommendation report notes:

“The government will work with delivery agencies to confirm the 2021 programme’s capacity to deliver homes for Social Rent as part of the review”

of the delivery of housing, and that they

“will confirm the programme’s ability to deliver an increased proportion of homes for social rent to Parliament at the same time as confirming the programme’s overall delivery targets.”

I could read that in all sorts of ways. I like to read it positively, as saying that the Department is determined to see an increased proportion of social rented housing. I hope the Minister can clarify exactly what the Government mean in that response.

It is worth putting the challenge in Hackney in context. I make no apology for repeating these figures. There are currently 3,100 households in temporary accommodation, 51% of which—more than half—are housed outside the borough due to a lack of supply. There are 3,528 children in temporary accommodation. That is enough to fill eight primary schools and is equivalent to 1% of Hackney’s population. We are having to close primary schools because of falling numbers. Many of those families would love to send their children to school in Hackney, but they cannot live there because there are not enough permanent homes. I have had so many tragic conversations with constituents in my surgeries or the living rooms of their temporary accommodation. They think that if they hang on, they will get a property in Hackney, where their kids are still at school, but I have to say to them, “You are not going to be in Hackney for some years. You have a five-year tenancy somewhere else so you need to think about moving your children.” They are aghast and upset, but that is the reality. Children are being shuttled around to schools where there are places; they are not going to schools their parents choose.

Average waiting times for council and housing association housing for homeless households is now nine years for a three-bedroom property—of course, that is a notional figure—and 12 years for a two-bedroom property. That is a lifetime for a child. Children are growing up in massively overcrowded conditions. They often live in a single room in accommodation or, if they are lucky, a couple of rooms in a hotel. Sometimes, they are in temporary, rented accommodation elsewhere, but with no certainty and, even if their parents are bidding for properties, no real prospect of getting a home anywhere near any time soon.

Homelessness in the borough is increasing rapidly. The number of households seeking support increased by 44% between 2017-18 and 2021-22. Hackney Council anticipates that the number will continue to increase by about 8% a year. That is just one London borough, but I am sure my colleagues across London will say the same. It was interesting to hear that in Coventry the experiences are very similar. In Hackney, that would be considered cheap housing, compared with what we have to deal with.

I pay tribute to the Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, who is doing his utmost to build council housing—affordable, secure homes—but for pretty much every one he builds, he has to have one for sale to cross-subsidise because there is not a Government subsidy, despite the Government’s own figures showing that investment in bricks-and-mortar subsidy is the most cost-effective way of delivering these homes.

I am sure the Minister is thoughtful enough to take on board the cost of poor housing to the Exchequer. The Public Accounts Committee looked at the private rented sector. In my constituency, ownership is out of reach for so many people—average house prices are at ridiculous levels—so people are living in the private rented sector. The National Audit Office concluded that 13% of privately rented properties—589,000 of them—pose a serious threat to their tenants’ health and safety. The Committee and the National Audit Office estimated the cost of that to the health service to be £340 million per annum, so it really is spend to save. I know it is difficult for any Department to sell that to the Treasury, but I am sure that if the Minister wanted to join forces with us on this issue, we could all work together to persuade the Treasury that spending money, investing in people’s homes and getting them on a stable footing is better for everybody.

This is not rocket science. We need more homes to be built, and we need to unblock the logjam that is stopping that. We do not have the time to go into all the reasons for that, but we need more social housing that is actually affordable for people on average wages—people who work hard every day but have no prospect of buying a home. Some even find it hard to afford council rent. There are issues there, but we certainly need council rented housing and housing association housing. We need pathways to home ownership, but every time someone buys under right to buy, that is another home lost to the local council or the housing association, and that is not a path that many people can pursue.

Many years ago, when I was a councillor in Islington, we would pay people about £16,000 to move from their council property to help them buy a property elsewhere, so they freed it up. That is actually good value for money. Who would have thought that the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee would be standing here saying, “Give tenants who want to move the money to do so”? Sure, home ownership is understandably a dream for many people, but it should not be a dream that is out of reach. We could free up the housing we have for those who have the wherewithal and ability to move into other homes.

We need better rights and stability for private tenants. People live in a home with a year’s tenancy, perhaps, but cannot be sure from year to year whether their children can stay at the same school. It is an upheaval in a family’s life. Now, increasingly, as people are evicted, rents are going through the roof, as many landlords exit the market. In summary, I believe firmly—I hope that the Minister concurs and will tell us how he will help to achieve this—that people need a safe, secure and long-term home as the foundation for their life and, crucially, the springboard for opportunity.

There is a consequence to not building homes other than the numbers, and that is families living in temporary accommodation. That currently costs the UK taxpayer £1.6 billion a year. I do not know about other hon. Members in this Chamber, but I can think of a lot better ways to spend £1.6 billion.

I stand to speak out of desperation from what I see every single Friday at my advice surgery. I represent half of the London borough of Merton, which is certainly not the London borough under the greatest pressure for housing or temporary accommodation, but since last April even Merton has seen a 41% increase in the numbers of people in temporary accommodation. The numbers are tiny in comparison with the 3,000 in Hackney, but our numbers have increased from 243 to 343 units.

Also, when we use the word “temporary”—as I said earlier, language is important—at the moment it means five years. By the time we get to the end of five years, it will mean 10 years, or maybe 15 or 20 years—we just do not know. There is simply no way out of this appalling struggle.

Currently, in England, 99,000 families—including 125,000 children—live in temporary accommodation. That is an increase of 71% between 2012 and 2018, and a further 41% between 2018 and 2022. I give hon. Members those figures so that they have some idea of the scale of the problem we are experiencing. In June 2022, 26,130 of those families were placed in a borough outside their home, taking their kids out of school, their families away from their support networks, and individuals from jobs and away from NHS facilities that they might desperately need.

Once we remove a desperate, vulnerable family from their environment, there are consequences for the children in school attainment and attendance, and all sorts of other things. I say without any pleasure at all that, in the statistics of child mortality between 2019 and 2022, 34 children’s deaths were seen as a direct consequence of their temporary accommodation. I am happy to take the Minister to the temporary accommodation that many of the families that I represent have to live in.

I will talk to the House about Mr and Mrs N. They live in a shed in the garden of a house in multiple occupation. They have the benefit of the fact that it is in Streatham, so only around the corner from my constituency. They have two rooms and four children. The smell in the bathroom is so appalling that, put simply, no one would want to enter it. And the ants are obvious, crawling across the floor. Last week, when we beseeched the homeless department to move them somewhere else, the only place that it had to offer was in Reading. That family chose their ant-infested home over having to be moved many miles away from where they had any support or help.

I give that example not because it is unique, but because it is absolutely appalling. Unless we do something, we will have more children die of damp and mould growth, and we will have more desperate families. We will pay for that not just in human lives but in taxpayers’ money well into the next century. It is time to do something now.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate the hon. Member for Slough (Mr Dhesi) on securing the debate. He made an excellent speech, as did all the other speakers.

It might not be obvious why I am going to take my contribution in this direction, but I am going to outline a situation that developed recently in my constituency, which has a link to housing and should be aired publicly. Today I spoke to Councillor Michael Baird, who represents North, West and Central Sutherland, one of the biggest wards in the United Kingdom. It is 1,800 square miles—the size of three Greater Londons and 18 Edinburghs. It is vast.

Michael has outlined to me a harrowing situation. He and his fellow councillors have one facility for the elderly in the entire ward—in that vast area. It is called Caladh Sona and is in the tiny village of Talmine on the north coast of Scotland. It has six care beds and, at the moment, four residents. NHS Highland has announced that it will close the facility in 12 weeks, and the residents will be moved to the two nearest homes, one of which is in Thurso, 47 miles away, whereas the other—if they can get beds—is in Golspie, 62 miles away. I think about those old people being moved and about their families, their loved ones, trying to see them. It is a lot harder with distances such as that.

I think also about the remaining staff. They have been offered jobs somewhere else, but will have to move from their community or make long commutes, sometimes in pretty dreadful winter weather. This is happening because the home cannot get the staff needed to run it, and that is because—this is where I return to the agenda—there is not the housing. If a house comes on the market on the north coast of Sutherland, it is snapped up as a holiday home or becomes an Airbnb. It is so like what everyone else is saying. If we cannot get the carers, we are in real trouble.

To echo what everyone has said this afternoon, if young people’s families cannot get an affordable home, they will not live there, and that means that school rolls drop and we have that old, dark monster of depopulation, which we had for far too long—for hundreds of years in the highlands. People up sticks and away. They go to Canada, Australia and America and never come back. That is one reason why we have a diaspora of Scots all over the world.

What can we do about it? It is ironic that we have one of the greatest sources of renewable energy, that is, land-based wind farms, in my constituency. Some of the money that the wind farms make could help the local authority—the Highland Council—a housing association or whatever to buy properties when they come on the market. An old expression we used to use has already been referred to: key worker housing. That is the key. Even if they come up for only five days a week, if we can offer a carer somewhere to live that they can afford, we will go some way to looking after the old people. As the oldest member of my party in this place, I can remember when houses were being built in the 1960s in my hometown of Tain. They were going up and it was great. There was hope that people would be housed, but the situation is very different today.

I will conclude with what the hon. Member for Slough said: we need a renewed national effort. By goodness, we certainly do. I am aware that housing is devolved, but I am sure that Members who belong to the Scottish Government’s party would admit that there is a major problem, just as hon. Members have described this afternoon. There has to be a renewed national effort. It has to involve all the nations of the United Kingdom, and we have to get it going, because if we do not, we are going back to the bad old days of our past. That is something that we thought was dead, buried and gone forever, but it seems to have come back. Action has to be taken.

It is a pleasure to serve under you in the Chair, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Mr Dhesi) on securing this important debate and on the compelling speech with which he opened it. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Coventry North West (Taiwo Owatemi), for Weaver Vale (Mike Amesbury), for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Dame Meg Hillier) and for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) and the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone) for participating this afternoon and for a series of powerful speeches.

The debate has covered a range of concerns, many relating to the housing crisis more widely, but, on the specific matter of the affordable homes programme, most fell within two broad categories—namely, the performance of the programme over recent years and the more fundamental issues of its design and purpose. I want to address each of those in turn.

When it comes to the performance of the programme, there is clearly significant room for improvement. The comprehensive National Audit Office report on the operation of the AHP since 2015, which was published last year, details concerns on to a wide range of issues—including governance, transparency and oversight—many of which were echoed in a report published shortly afterwards by the Public Accounts Committee. I would be grateful if, as part of his response, the Minister could tell the House whether the Department has acted on the eight specific recommendations made by the NAO in its report, and could take the opportunity to update hon. Members on the steps that his Department committed to taking in its response to the PAC.

A particular criticism levelled at the programme by both the NAO and the PAC and referenced by my hon. Friend the Member for Slough in opening the debate was the fact that targets were unlikely to be met. We know that, taken together, the 2016 and 2021 programmes are likely to miss their combined target by approximately 32,000 homes, with a shortfall of 9,000 starts under the 2016 programme compounded by a projected 23,000 shortfall in the current one. There is also a clear risk that the programme will fail to meet its sub-targets on supported accommodation and rural housing.

Opposition Members recognise that some of the factors undermining delivery on the targets are entirely out of the Government’s control, but there are others—such as local planning authority capacity and the need for funding and financing mechanisms to support providers in upgrading their stock—that the Government could take more proactive steps to mitigate. Might the Minister provide us with some assurance this afternoon that the Government are at least actively looking at what more can be done in that regard? Can he also explain whether and, if so, how rules about grant funding under the current programme might be being made more flexible—not least in terms of increased grant funding per unit—with a view to sustaining the Department’s central forecast of 157,000 completions in the face of inflationary pressure?

Lastly, when it comes to assessing the overall performance of the programme, effective scrutiny is still very much hampered by the absence of transparency and open reporting. The Department has now committed to providing an annual report to Parliament on programme delivery, but might the Minister go further today and commit at least to having Homes England publish its annual AHP targets, as the Greater London Authority has already done?

Let me turn to the design and purpose of the programme. One of the more damning conclusions of the NAO report was that the AHP lacks strong incentives for housing providers to deliver affordable homes in areas of high housing need and high affordability pressure. I would be grateful if the Minister could therefore update the House on how the Department is improving the way it works with local authorities to address local need, and tell us whether any further measures are being explored to ensure that more grant-funded affordable housing flows to areas of high need.

Providing more homes in such areas is, of course, not the only wider Government objective in respect of which the current programme is falling short. To me at least, it simply beggars belief that both the Department and Homes England did not include any specific targets relating to emissions reductions in the 2021 programme, with the result that outside London the Government are financing the construction of new affordable homes that in all likelihood we will have to retrofit in years to come.

The Government have committed to exploring the cost and deliverability of additional net zero requirements, but only in a successor to the 2021 programme.

My hon. Friend is making an interesting speech. Does he agree that every new home should have a solar panel fitted when it is built?

There is a strong case for that. It is an issue—one of many—that we are exploring in detail. The situation speaks to a wider failure, which is the abolition of the zero homes standard by, I think, the coalition Government. We built tens if not hundreds of thousands of homes over recent years that we will have to retrofit at great cost. The least we can do is change the criteria the programme operates on, so that at least we build net zero-ready homes for which we will not have to do that in years to come. I would be grateful if the Minister could explain what precisely is stopping changes being made to the programme to ensure, as the Greater London Authority has done, that all new grant-funded homes are net zero carbon and air quality neutral.

Those issues aside, there is the more fundamental and important question of whether the programme provides the right kind of homes to meet affordable housing need in England. The answer of Labour Members is a categorical no. We believe it is a problem that the programme has constrained the overall amount of grant funding available for sub-market rented homes while also failing to deliver an increase in the supply of low-cost home ownership properties. We believe it is a problem that the Government’s decision to prioritise the so-called affordable rent tenure of up to 80% of local market rents has squeezed the amount of programme funding available for new homes for social rent and ballooned the number of households in temporary accommodation and on local housing waiting lists, as well as the housing benefit bill, as a result. Those are not technical design flaws; they reflect political choices about what a national affordable housing programme should aim to achieve and whether its primary purpose should be meeting the needs of people on the lowest incomes.

There is a clear difference of opinion between the Opposition and the Government on this matter. We believe the overriding purpose of a national affordable housing programme should be to provide as many genuinely affordable homes as possible, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch rightly argued. The Government believe, at least post-2018, that the purpose of such a programme is to provide—reluctantly —a small number of genuinely affordable social rented homes and a much larger number of sub-market rented and home ownership units that are branded as affordable, but, in practice, are anything but for many low-income households in swathes of the country. That is why—with the debasement of language we have seen in recent years in the concept of affordable housing—the Housing and Planning Minister could argue with a straight face in a debate that took place last week on the future of social housing that Conservative-led Governments since 2010 have outperformed the last Labour Government on affordable housing, despite the fact that the last Labour Government built over twice as many social homes as Conservative-led Governments since 2010 have managed, and that at no point over the past decade has annual social housing supply ever matched the levels delivered by the last Labour Government.

We want the performance of the affordable homes programme to improve between now and the general election, and I look forward to the Minister detailing the various ways in which the Government are attempting to achieve that. But as laudable an aim as fine-tuning the existing programme is, Labour is clear that a very different programme will be required in the future to markedly increase the supply of new net zero-ready, genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy, as is our aim. It is an aim based on a reassessment of the amount of grant funding directed toward sub-market rent and the building of social rented homes in particular; on a review of the scope of eligible sub-market products, not least the so-called affordable rent tenure; and on a reappraisal of whether there are better low-cost home ownership products than shared ownership.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I thank all hon. and right hon. Members for their contributions and thank the hon. Member for Slough (Mr Dhesi) for instigating the debate. We may have disagreements about the methods by which we ensure that people can enjoy the fruits of home ownership and have a roof over their heads, but I think we would all, collectively, irrespective of what side we are on in this Chamber, agree that it is absolutely vital to have a housing sector that supports those who need it and provides the platform for people to be able to aspire to move into home ownership. That has been the case for the past century, and it has been such a success within this country.

I start by acknowledging the underlining point made by a number of hon. and right hon. Members, which is that there are challenges at the moment, including those that have grown in the immediate term, such as inflation, the cost of construction and materials and labour challenges, which all create issues in ensuring that we can make progress on our shared objectives. If we are truthful, that is also set within the context—I am not seeking to make a particularly political point, as it has developed under successive Governments of all colours over the past 30 or 40 years—of the number of houses that are built in this country and, flowing from that, the number of people who can have access to them, and the number of people who can enjoy home ownership in general. I think we have made progress on that as a Government, but I know there is a keenness to go further in the years ahead.

The Government support ensuring that people have a place to live, a place to thrive, a place to grow and a place to bring up families, which, in many instances, will be through affordable housing and social rent, but we also inherently believe in the importance of home ownership as a moral end in itself, providing the ability for people to make choices, grow capital and pass assets on to their family over their lives. The comments in today’s debate have underscored the need for more homes of all tenures, whether to rent, to buy or to part buy, on the way, hopefully, to fully buying in time.

On the specifics of the affordable homes programme, the whole point of the programme, which has nearly £12 billion of taxpayer subsidy—we are taking money from people that they would otherwise be able to spend themselves—is that we recognise the importance of some of the points made in the debate. Launched in 2020, that nearly £12 billion support—£11.5 billion—represents a significant taxpayer subsidy for affordable housing and a clear commitment to delivering tens of thousands of homes for sale and rent throughout the country.

Social rent has been raised by a number of colleagues, and I will come to their specific points in the moment. We brought social rented homes into the scope of the affordable homes programme in 2018 and we affirmed our commitment to increasing the supply of social rented homes in the levelling-up White Paper, which was published last year, as well as to improving the quality of housing across the board, in both the private and rental sector. I will come on to that point in a moment, when I respond to the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh). We have changed the parameters for the affordable homes programme to support that commitment, which enables further increases in the share of social rental homes that we plan to deliver.

Furthermore, the affordable homes programme is committed to funding a mix of tenures, enabling developers to deliver mixed communities that will ensure that people can buy, part buy and rent where they need to. That is why we have kept a commitment to delivering homes for affordable rent, where rent is typically capped at 80% of the prevailing rate. Yet it is home ownership that we want people truly to benefit from, and we want people to benefit from it as much as is possible. We understand the difference that an increased sense of security can make to all aspects of someone’s life and the lives of their families. That is why home ownership is a fundamental part of the affordable homes programme and why there is a significant element of homes for shared ownership, which can help people staircase up.

The Minister said some warm words there about the need for social housing. In response to the Public Accounts Committee report, the Government indicated that local authorities would have more say over the mix of tenure in their area. In areas like mine, where the real need is for social rented housing, that requires more Government grant compared with areas where low-cost home ownership is genuinely an option. In Hackney, with the price as it is, home ownership will be very difficult to achieve. Can he flesh out how local authorities can deliver what they know is needed in their area and how Government grant will follow those decisions?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising that point. She is an assiduous follower of this issue. I know of all the fantastic work that she and her colleagues on the Public Accounts Committee do on this area and elsewhere. I fear I might not be able to give her an absolute answer, but I will try to provide as much information as I can. There is obviously a challenge, broader than the specifics of this debate, about the amount of money that the Government have; that is not particularly newsworthy. If I may make a tiny partisan point: the Labour party, if it ever gets into Government, will have to make more choices than Opposition spokesmen indicate when they respond to such debates. There will always be a challenge around how we prioritise funding, and what the trade-offs are to do that. The commitment from the Government is here, with the £12 billion contribution that has already been indicated for allocation.

When we come forward with further information about the affordable homes programme 2021-26, I hope we will be able to give greater clarity for those authorities that seek a particular mix of housing and to expand the number of affordable homes of whichever tenure. I also hope that some of the changes coming through in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill will take effect, although that needs to complete its progress in the other place. We will have to see what the other place does to that Bill, which I hope will give local councils some ability to flex their approach in the area of housing.

The Minister is right that, when it comes to designing an affordable homes programme, choices have to be made and trade-offs confronted, but does it not trouble him that, despite the fact that 50% of AHP funding under the current programme is allocated to low-cost home ownership, his own Department’s figures make it clear that grant funding under the last year of the previous Labour Government still delivered twice the number of low-cost home ownership units than the Government managed last year?

Before I answer that question, I hope the Chair will allow me a minute or two more than 10 minutes, given that we have a little bit of time, in order to answer these interventions.

I will not detain colleagues to that extent, but I am grateful for the confirmation that I can continue. The hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook) is keen to make a comparison. The fundamental thing that we are trying to do at the moment is weigh up a series of very challenging economic circumstances, recognising the context of housing supply, which has been a challenge for the entirety of my life. We recognise that we have to make progress for the very reasons that right hon. and hon. Members have outlined over the course of the debate. It is so important to do so, given that housing supply affects and impacts the lives of real people.

Let me comment on individual contributions. The hon. Member for Slough, opening the debate, emphasised the importance of the property-owning democracy, which I wholeheartedly agree with. I hope we can make progress on that and also address some points made by other hon. Members. He also said that there should be greater clarity on the affordable housing programme going forward. Although I am not able to give that in today’s debate, we have said that we will come back in the spring with further clarity about what is happening; there is not a huge amount of spring left, so I hope it will not be too much longer before my housing colleagues in the Department will do so. I anticipate the Department being able to provide further information to the hon. Member and others in the coming weeks.

The hon. Member for Coventry North West (Taiwo Owatemi) raised a number of points about the inherent challenges in the housing market and of trade-off. During my brief tenure as the Housing Minister back in the autumn, we had a debate in this very place about some of the issues, and she spoke then with regard to Coventry specifically. I cannot talk about Coventry individually, but I will put on record, if hon. Members allow me, the progress that has been made in the past 13 years. I realise that many colleagues will not necessarily want to point to that, but it is important for balance that we do.

Two million homes have been built in this country since 2010, and almost 1 million people—over 800,000—have been helped into ownership through schemes such as help to buy. Some 630,000 new affordable homes have been built. Last year, the registered supply of new homes increased over the previous year by approximately 10%, and I believe that the last five years have seen some of the highest rates of property building for 30 years.

A number of colleagues raised home ownership. Crucially, after a pretty linear fall from the mid-2000s under Governments of all parties, home ownership has started to increase again for the first time in a number of years. The increase is incremental—the rate is up from 62.5% in 2016-17 to 64.3% in 2021-22—but it is a movement back in the direction of empowering people to own their own properties and obtain all the consequent benefits.

The Minister talks about home ownership increasing, but that incremental increase can hardly be seen as a victory. His is the party that introduced right to buy to increase home ownership. I wonder what the percentage is for anyone under the age of 35. Will he acknowledge that the Government have totally failed that generation in this respect?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right that it is not enough, but the whole point of trying to build more properties and of using programmes such as the affordable housing programme to bridge, where that is necessary, into home ownership through rent and part ownership is to boost those numbers. My point is not that there are no challenges—I acknowledged such challenges at the very top of my speech. It is to try to insert balance, if only into the record: some progress has been made over the last 13 years. A substantial number of properties have been built over that time—for home ownership, for rent and in the affordable sector—and most importantly, after a relatively clear-cut decline under Governments of all parties, the decline seems to have been arrested. There is a long way to go and there is absolutely the need for growth. I want everybody who wants to own their own home to have the opportunity to do so, but I hope that this is at least an indicator that we are moving, to an extent, in the right direction.

I have the greatest respect for the hon. Member for Weaver Vale (Mike Amesbury), and would never dream of reading my phone when he is speaking. I was specifically texting—this is both the benefit and the tyranny of having mobile devices in a debate—about the point he had raised. I regret to tell him that I have been unable to get an answer in the 40 minutes since he spoke, but I will ask the Department to write to him. I will be honest with him: I do not know whether the Department has purview here, and I do not know any of the details of the problem that he highlighted. It is always a challenge for local communities when developers are unable to complete the properties that they have indicated they will. I know that causes issues. I have a similar one in the village of Tupton in North East Derbyshire, where the developer unfortunately went out of business and the site is now mothballed. North East Derbyshire District Council is working hard to try to move that issue on. I will endeavour to write to the hon. Member for Weaver Vale either way, and will see whether the Department can provide any advice or information about the point that he raised; I am grateful for his doing so.

The hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Dame Meg Hillier) raised a number of incredibly important and detailed points, to which I will ask the Department and the Minister responsible to respond in detail. Part of the answer to some of her questions will, I hope, be answered by the further details that come forward in the next stage of the affordable housing programme, but I will ask for a letter to be provided to the hon. Lady with more detail about the specific questions that she highlighted.

The hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden made an extremely powerful intervention about the challenges of temporary accommodation—an issue that we all are aware of. We all want standards, quality and conditions to improve. As a former councillor in central London, albeit a number of years ago, I am under no illusions about some of the challenges of temporary accommodation. The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, my right hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), has been clear that improvements are needed in this area and has indicated that further legislation will be forthcoming. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden for highlighting her concerns, and I hope the Department can make progress in the coming months and years.

The hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone) made a very important point about the challenges of access to labour, particularly in rural areas due to geography and topography and the like. I am sorry to hear about the issues his constituents are experiencing. While housing is a devolved matter, it is important, and I am grateful that he has put on record those issues and the work he is doing to address them. He will be aware that, at least from an England perspective, we are seeking to legislate as part of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill in order to offer councils the opportunity—which they do not have to take up; some will choose to, some will not—to vary council tax for second homes. That will hopefully put an additional tool in the arsenal of local authorities to respond, in England, to the local challenges he has raised.

The spokesperson for the Opposition, the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich, raised an important point about capacity in local planning authorities, which is an issue that the Housing Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean), and I are both involved in. Within planning, nationally significant infrastructure projects fall under my aegis. That is different from the debate we are having today, but there are very live conversations within the NSIPs and major infrastructure realms. I know from my colleague the Housing Minister that it is the same with regard to capacity in local planning authorities and within the appeals process, where a number of applications end up in their final stages.

The hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich raised a number of important points about green homes. We need to make progress on multiple different imperatives and initiatives. The part L uplift, which we brought in in the summer of 2021, constituted a 30% increase and improvement in standards. That is in place now and has been for almost a year. The transition period for the part L uplift ends shortly, meaning that all houses built from now on will be 30% more efficient than previously. That is a massive increase compared to a number of years ago. However, there is a trade-off here, and we are trying to work through the issues and make progress in all aspects.

The Labour party has spent much of this debate—reasonably, in my view—saying that we need more houses, and that they need to be affordable to own and rent. We agree, which is why we are trying to make progress in this area. We also need to make progress on the environmental agenda, but those things must be brought into balance. Every single time an hon. Member stands up in this place and says, “We just need this one thing added in”, we need to understand that there is cost involved. That is where we have to make considerations. The part L uplift is a great example: we are trying to make progress environmentally, while also trying to answer the question reasonably posed by hon. Members across this place as to how we increase housing supply in general. We hope we are striking the right balance.

The Minister is doing a great job of expanding his speech. There is absolutely no cost to ensuring that there is an obligation for every new home built to have solar panels. Why does the Minister not look at that? My hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook), Labour’s Front-Bench spokesperson, has said that all these new houses have to be retrofitted. Surely the Minister can consider what can be done with new houses in terms of the environmental factors?

I understand the point that the right hon. Lady is making, but there is a cost to mandating solar panels on new properties: the cost that will be paid for the initial transaction. If right hon. and hon. Members want to see supply boosted, we have to accept that we have to set a balance; we are trying to do that by saying both that it is important to make progress with regard to the environmental imperatives that have been rightly highlighted and—to answer the exam question—to get the kind of supply that everybody in this debate wants to see.

I gently caution hon. Members not to be too prescriptive regarding the technology we use. Although solar panels will be appropriate in many instances—I would guess the majority of instances, as a non-expert and a non-surveyor—they will not be the solution to reducing the carbon footprint of every single new property built. We should all collectively accept that solar panels will not be a useful or effective way to spend money in that cohort—in situations where, for whatever reason, including the wrong aspect, the wrong part of the country or the wrong geography. We should seek not to impose a requirement in that regard but instead to say, “If you have that amount of money within the system to be able to spend on making that building greener, the Government will not be prescriptive that you have to do something that isn’t necessarily going to be effective, but we will encourage you to use that money to make it effective, be it in a different form of technology or doing it in a different way.”

I thank the Minister for giving way and I think he will have heard the points about quality, size and environmental standards, and why it is important for there to be a focus on them; I appreciate his accepting that. Will he also confirm for us all, and for the record, when the revisions to the 2021 plan will be published?

We expect to be able to say more on the affordable housing point in the coming weeks ahead—in spring. I hope that answers his question. I will conclude—

I will be brief. I recently addressed chief executives of housing associations from across the north, and the one big concern was around section 106 and the replacement—the infrastructure levy. I think that about 47% of affordable homes are built that way at the moment. What reassurances can the Minister give to the sector that that will be the case, and even better? The associations’ final ask was around section 21. When can we see the announcement on no-fault evictions—the pledge that has been made by the Government over and over again?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. On the final point, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has been clear in the other Chamber that we intend to bring forward more information about the rental sector relatively soon. I hope that answers his that question.

Obviously, the key underlying way in which we can answer the hon. Gentleman’s question about the infrastructure levy is to get the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill through. It depends what the other place does to that Bill. There are some quite substantial provisions, which I believe the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich went through in Committee a number of months ago; I had the opportunity to contribute to that process very briefly. We will see what the other place does to that Bill. No doubt it will come back here. Once we get the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill through, we will be able to make progress on moving away from section 106 and towards an infrastructure levy, which I hope will capture more of what we seek to do.

To close, I thank the hon. Member for Slough again for requesting and instigating this debate. It is absolutely the case that everybody here feels very strongly—rightly—about the need to make further progress on housing in the years ahead, for precisely the reasons that have been articulated in this debate today. It is so important for our constituents, for transforming lives and for supporting the most vulnerable. We have all heard today about some of the challenges, but I hope that I have been able to rebalance things, at least to some extent, by highlighting the opportunities and some of the progress that has been made. Housing, affordable housing and home ownership are vital to our communities all across the country, from North East Derbyshire, where I am from, to the constituencies of right hon. and hon. Members who have contributed to this debate today. We must make progress for precisely the reasons that have been articulated in this debate. I hope we can continue to do that in the months and years ahead.

I am extremely grateful, Mr Hollobone, for your excellent chairing of this passionate and powerful debate. The issue is critical for many of our constituents.

As passionate and powerful as the debate has been, I fear that the Minister must be feeling very lonely. Apart from his Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Loughborough (Jane Hunt), not a single member of his party has come to call for the urgent action that is required. I hope that the Minister will take the need to implement the eight NAO recommendations back to his Department. As the shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook), pointed out, they need to be looked at seriously and actioned. The Homes England grants for affordable homes are important and helpful, as we have found in Slough, but they are not sufficient to meet the scale of the problem.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry North West (Taiwo Owatemi). She is a passionate advocate for her constituents and gave powerful examples of the planning problems for all in her constituency, and of the wider planning shambles. I hope that the Minister and his Department will look into that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale (Mike Amesbury) was previously a shadow Minister for local government and spoke with a great deal of experience and authority. He highlighted heartbreaking cases of children living in cramped accommodation and the problems of overcrowding, which we also face in Slough. I am extremely grateful to him for highlighting those issues.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Dame Meg Hillier), who is Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, spoke about the change in the definition of “affordability” and the multiplicity of markets. She also spoke about waiting times, which are so onerous for our constituents. She highlighted that, in her constituency, there is a nine-year wait for a three-bed property. Similarly, many of my constituents in Slough have to wait more than eight years to get a council property. That has an impact on children in particular.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) shone a light on the scale of the problem, the £1.6 billion cost to the taxpayer of failure and the fact that “temporary” currently means at least five years in her patch. It is a similar example to the ones highlighted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) and by Members from the west midlands. People are being placed outside of their borough, sometimes hundreds of miles away where they have no support network, and problems were raised around damp and mould.

My hon. Friend the Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone)—I think he is my hon. Friend because we share a corridor and often have conversations on such matters—spoke about the complexities of the use of Airbnb and why we need a renewed national effort on housing. Otherwise, we all fear that we will go back to the bad old days of the past.

Given where we are at the moment and that targets will be missed by tens of thousands, I hope that the Minister will take back the message that we need to focus on this issue because it has a direct impact on the quality of life of our constituents, many of whom are living in rodent-infested, damp or mouldy properties. For them there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, and that is why the Government must focus on affordable housing. I thank you once again, Mr Hollobone. I hope that we will hear some good news this spring, as the Minister has promised.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered the Affordable Homes Programme.