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Construction Industry

Volume 622: debated on Monday 27 February 2017

Our recent housing White Paper sets out measures to increase the use of modern methods of construction in housebuilding. The key is to provide a pipeline of work to encourage suppliers to invest in new plant. We will do that through our accelerated construction and home building fund, and through the growing build-to-rent and custom build markets.

Does the Minister not agree that custom built homes, which can often be built more quickly and cheaply, and often to a higher standard than other types of housing, have a real part to play in solving housing supply issues?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Not only can homes be built more quickly and with a better environmental performance, which means that they are cheaper for people to live in when they move there but, in terms of the real skills challenge we face if we are going to build many more homes, that is a way of getting new people involved in the building of homes.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting one of the partners of Waugh Thistleton, the architects behind a new housing development at Dalston Lane in Hackney, which uses more timber than any other project in the world. Is cross-laminated timber on the Department’s radar, and what are the Government doing to help to support architects who are exploring this very sustainable material?

It is absolutely on our agenda. The term “modern methods of construction” covers a wide range of different techniques. The key policy area is our home building fund, which provides £1 billion of loan funding for people who are innovating. Too many homes are still built in exactly the same way as they were 100 years ago. We are determined to change that, and I am very happy to hear about the example provided by the hon. Lady.

13. A number of constituents have recently contacted me to express their concern about the quality of new-build homes that are under construction. What encouragement can the Department give to builders to ensure that these homes are robust for many years in the future? (908932)

My hon. Friend is right to say that it is not good enough just to get new homes built. They need to be built well and to stand the test of time. Building inspectors check to ensure that building regulation requirements are met, but we are also considering the recommendations in the report of the all-party group on excellence in the built environment.

At the weekend, we learned that Bovis Homes is to pay £7 million in compensation for poorly built new homes. Will the Minister tell the House what he will do to improve the quality of new homes, including those built by new methods of construction, and to ensure they are built in well-planned communities with appropriate infrastructure? Unfortunately, while the housing White Paper had warm words, it lacked any substance whatsoever on quality and place-making issues.

Despite what the hon. Lady says, there has been a very warm reaction to the housing White Paper from right across the housing sector. I have spent the past week travelling around the country and holding meetings with housing professionals, including, interestingly, Labour councillors, who are very keen to get behind the Government’s agenda to build the homes that Governments of both colours, over 30 or 40 years, have failed to build.

For reasons best known to themselves, about two years ago Reading Borough Council and West Berkshire Council challenged the Government’s policy of assisting brownfield development via vacant building credit. Will the Minister update us on whether the Government are still committed to vacant building credit to release more residential homes on brownfield land?

We are certainly absolutely committed to trying to get a greater proportion of the homes we need built on brownfield land. The White Paper sets out a huge range of different things that we will do to achieve that, but I will happily write to my hon. Friend about the details of the issue he raises.

I welcome the Minister’s commitment to new construction methods, but will he confirm to the House that the Government’s commitment to starter homes, which are designed to encourage home ownership, remains undiminished?

Absolutely. Starter homes are an important part of the way in which the Government are going to try to help people to get into home ownership. There are a number of different schemes—[Interruption.] We are not proceeding with a statutory obligation because that reflects the view expressed to us by large numbers of people. Starter homes go alongside shared ownership and the Help to Buy scheme. None of these schemes existed when the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) was housing Minister and did nothing to reverse to the decline in home ownership.