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Housing Estates

Volume 768: debated on Tuesday 9 February 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will provide further information on their proposals for renewal or replacement of failed housing estates, following the announcement by the Prime Minister of £140 million funding; and whether any additional funding will be made available.

My Lords, estate regeneration provides a big opportunity to turn around run-down, low-density public sector estates to produce many more new homes and to tackle blight. The funding announced is only part of the package we are working on. An advisory panel, co-chaired by my noble friend Lord Heseltine and my honourable friend Brandon Lewis, will explore how we can help the projects to go forward. The panel will meet for the first time today.

I thank the Minister for her response. I am sure she is aware that, in many parts of the country, the number of households in severe housing need is rapidly rising. Indeed, it is 3,000 in my own city, with the numbers of people sleeping rough having gone up by 41%. Will the noble Baroness tell me when precise, funded proposals will be published, and can she assure us that decent, affordable homes will be provided for those families in the most severe need?

The noble Baroness underlines the reason why we are doing this estate regeneration. The Government have an ambition to introduce more than 1 million new homes into this country by 2021. The funding that was announced was purely seed funding to attract other forms of funding both in the public and the private sector. In terms of the mix of tenure, that will certainly be in the panel’s minds as it makes its considerations going forward.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that one of the ways to make homes affordable is to ensure that they are energy efficient, so that people do not have to pay too much for their heating? Will she assure the House that these homes will not be built so energy inefficiently that they have to be dealt with again within 20 years? Can she assure the House that energy efficiency will be high on her list of priorities?

My Lords, I will not be sitting on the panel, but I shall certainly bring that point to my noble friend Lord Heseltine. Of course, my noble friend is absolutely right that, the more energy efficient a house is, the cheaper it is to live in and the cheaper the bills are for the tenants or the owners of it. I will certainly bring that point to my noble friend’s attention.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that, when making large-scale policy changes on social housing or in implementing estate regeneration programmes, tenants desperately need access to information, advice and advocacy about their rights and options, on the implications for them and their families? Will she ensure that strategies for supporting housing and social welfare advice, commonly provided by such organisations as Shelter, citizens advice bureaux and law centres, are factored into the funding and effective structures for delivery?

The noble Lord makes a very important point on the need for those tenants not to feel that this has been imposed on them or that things have been done to them, but that they are very much part of the process that is taking place. I know that that is foremost in the mind of my noble friend Lord Heseltine. It will be a collaborative process with tenants to do the best for them.

The Minister’s right honourable friend the Prime Minister, when he announced this initiative, talked about bulldozing 100 sink estates. Can the noble Baroness tell us how many families will be living in those sink estates and how far the £140 million will go towards providing them with adequate accommodation? Perhaps she can tell us whether she agrees with the Prime Minister’s terminology in describing those homes as being in sink estates.

My Lords, “sink estate” is terminology that conjures up a picture of an estate that has become run-down, in which people feel less safe to live or, indeed, where the standard of accommodation is not what it should be. The £140 million of funding is seed funding for other types of funding to come in both from the public and the private sector. While that regeneration is being done, I do not expect that the tenants will be living in those houses.

My Lords, I speak as one who lived on one of these estates for some 10 years in the 1980s and 1990s at a time when significant public money was invested in that estate. My memory, looking back with the benefit of hindsight, is that we probably gave relatively too much attention to physical investment and not enough to investment in other kinds of infrastructure. Will the Minister assure me that, while attention is given to the physical fabric, whether that is new or renewed, equal attention—maybe even over and above the £140 million, or another £140 million—will be given to such matters as educational, social and economic infrastructure?

The right reverend Prelate makes a really good point about regeneration being about not just the physical structures that are in place but some of the social structures that are in place to support communities, and other amenities, as he said, such as schools, hospitals and GP surgeries, that so often are not thought about when we think about regeneration.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a councillor in Lewisham. The Government issued an Estate Regeneration Programme prospectus in 2014 that promised a £150 million fund from 2015-16 onwards, with all the funds being drawn down by March 2019. The PM recently announced a £140 million fund for estate regeneration. Will the Minister confirm that these are not the same funds being announced twice?

The noble Lord is absolutely right. These are not the same funds being announced twice. The fund that he is referring to was for regeneration projects that had run into difficulty and needed substantial support from government.