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Affordable Housing

Volume 611: debated on Monday 6 June 2016

The Government have a strong track record on delivering affordable housing. We want to go further and to expand the definition of affordable housing so that we can deliver starter homes for young people who want to buy their own home.

How will the Government policy to subsidise starter homes address the affordable housing crisis for low and middle-income earners—cleaners, social workers, teachers, middle managers, nurses—given that it is estimated that, in London, one needs a household income of £97,000 and a deposit of £20,000 to afford an average starter home?

I draw the hon. Lady’s attention to the comments of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State a few moments ago. In this country, first-time buyers pay £181,000 on average for a new home, so, with a 20% discount and a 5% deposit, her figures do not quite add up. Given that 86% of our population want the chance to own their own home and that first-time buyers are the generation worst hit by Labour’s recession in terms of housing, I am proud that we have doubled the number of first-time buyers. We want to deliver 1 million during this Parliament, and the starter homes initiative is just part of the solution.

As the Minister says, 86% of the population want to own their own home. Surely the term “affordable home” should now be expanded to include low-cost home ownership, including schemes such as the excellent Wiltshire Rural Housing Association, which has a variety of shared equity schemes. Surely those homes should also be affordable, as well as homes for rent.

My hon. Friend makes a very good point, highlighting exactly the point I was making. As 86% of the population want to own their own home, most people have always found it slightly bizarre and illogical that when we talk about affordable homes we talk only about homes to rent. People want to own their own home, so it is absolutely right that affordable homes should also include homes that are affordable to buy.

The Government’s housing plans sit alongside their policy of neighbourhood planning. The Minister will recall that in the Adjournment debate he answered earlier in the year he recommended that the people of Haughton Green went away and produced a neighbourhood plan. They have started that process, so what assurances can he give them that the Two Trees site will not be brought forward for development by Tameside Council before they have had the opportunity to say how they want the site to be sustainably developed?

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I cannot comment on any particular planning application owing to the quasi-judicial role. As I said in that debate, neighbourhood planning is at the heart of our planning model. It delivers more homes than are delivered in areas that do not have a neighbourhood plan and allows the local community to work out where homes should be and what type of homes best suit them. It is fantastic that more than 200 plans are now in process and approved, and more than 2,000 are coming through. I look forward to seeing the conclusion of the plan in his constituency.

I think you know, Mr Speaker, that I believe that claims that there will be pestilence and war if we leave the European Union might be inadvertently misleading. The latest claim, that house prices will fall if we leave the EU, is, if true, possibly a good thing for creating affordable housing. Does my hon. Friend agree?

I agree with my hon. Friend on many things, but on this I have to say that the problem is that people who own their own home would end up in negative equity, people who are looking to buy would struggle because supply would fall through lack of investor confidence, and, given that as mortgage rates go up the cost of buying also goes up, affordability could get worse.