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Social Housing

Volume 771: debated on Wednesday 27 April 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the recently published figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government are correct in stating that in 2009-10 Her Majesty’s Government built 33,000 social rent properties that were let at 40 to 50 per cent of market rent, and spent £22.4 billion in real terms on housing benefit, and that in 2014-15 they are predicted to have built 9,600 social rent properties that were let at 40 to 50 per cent of market rent, and to have spent £24.7 billion on housing benefit.

My Lords, I will focus on the figures for England only. The housing benefit bill was £21.7 billion in 2014-15, and £19.6 billion in 2009-10. This is published in the tables showing housing benefit and council tax benefit expenditure by local authority. The noble Baroness is correct to say that in 2014-15 we delivered 9,600 social rent homes, but we also delivered 40,700 affordable rent homes—a total delivery of 50,300 social and affordable rent homes.

I thank the Minister for confirming my figures. When I asked the same question on 21 January I was told I was wrong and inaccurate. I think that was because these figures reveal the crisis in housing. The Government are driven by ideology to stop building social rented homes, and are pushing people into the affordable rental market, where rents are 80% of market rents, and the private sector. This sends families into generational poverty, as we have seen since the 1960s and 1970s, and it has cost the public £2.3 billion extra a year. Does the Minister agree that families’ housing needs should be put before political dogma, and that the Government need to ditch this failed housing policy and build more homes for social rent?

My Lords, building more homes is a clear priority for this Government. We take very seriously the building of affordable housing, and we want to ensure that we support the most vulnerable. The Government introduced the affordable rent, which allows us to deliver more homes for every pound of government investment. This means that more people in need can access good-quality homes at a sub-market rent.

My Lords, what assessment have the Government made of the future need for rented social housing in rural communities where properties that come on to the market tend to be taken for second or retirement homes by people with means beyond the resources of local people?

Meeting the needs of the rural community is also very much a priority, and more than 85,000 affordable homes have been provided in rural local authority areas in England between April 2010 and March 2015. We are working with the Homes and Communities Agency, which supports a network of rural champions, to ensure that the profile of affordable rural housing remains high. The noble Lord makes a good point.

My Lords, which is in general more expensive—to provide social housing let at discounted rents or to pay housing benefit?

There is a balance to be struck here, and one of the things the Government are doing is to reduce social rents by 1% per year for the next four years, until 2020. This means that the housing benefit bill will fall accordingly. It has grown by 25% in the last decade, reaching £13 billion in 2014-15.

My Lords, can the Minister help me by giving me the average sort of figure for the new homes he talks of being built for sale in London and the south-east? What sort of price range is he looking at, and are such homes affordable for the people who are in short supply, such as nurses, teachers and police officer recruits?

The noble Baroness makes a good point. Again, that is part of our overall plan. We are spending £20 billion altogether to deliver 1 million more homes: that is the largest programme by any Government. In terms of focusing on affordable housing, £1.6 billion is being put towards 100,000 homes at affordable and intermediate rents, and London is very much part of that programme.

Well, we will be delivering 90,000 affordable home starts in London by 2021, and 20 housing zones have been designated. It is important that we deliver on those.

My Lords, I refer noble Lords to my declaration in the Register of Lords’ Interests and declare that I am an elected councillor in the London Borough of Lewisham. The figures cited by my noble friend highlight the problem, and the soaring costs borne by the taxpayer. When are the Government going to get to grips with rents in the private rented sector?

The private rented sector is also an important part of this. I am not quite sure what the noble Lord means by getting a grip but, again, that is part of the process of building more houses and making sure that we have houses that people want to live in at a reasonable rent.

My Lords, what is the average wage in rural areas—I am thinking of the agricultural community—and what is the average rent or price of a house in those areas?

Again, my Lords, I hope the House will forgive me but these are very specific questions and I will certainly write to the noble Lord.