The first word in “Build back better” is, of course, “build”, and one of the key priorities for my Department throughout the pandemic has been to ensure that house building continues and the housing market stays open. This Government have gone to great lengths to keep the housing industry open, in turn sustaining hundreds of thousands of people’s jobs and livelihoods. House building and the whole ecosystem that it supports, from show homes to home maintenance, have been able to continue during the pandemic and to do so safely. This was shown in the third quarter statistics last year, where housing starts were up 111% on the first quarter and completions were up 185%. At the same time, we are seeing the biggest investment in affordable homes for a decade, delivering much needed new homes on brownfield land through our £7.1 billion national home building fund.
I wonder whether the Secretary of State has seen the reports in The Times today showing high levels of interest in new houses with open space. That is certainly the case at Houlton in my constituency, where the master developer of a 6,000-home site, Urban&Civic, has put green space and a sense of community at its heart, and surpassed its target with 513 occupations in the last three months and a further 310 homes currently under construction. Does he agree that the provision of high-quality open space should be a key part of all housing developments, and will he come to Houlton to see the great work that is being done there, as soon as he is able to do so?
I would be delighted to visit my hon. Friend in Houlton, and I pay tribute to Urban&Civic, which I know well. It is a developer that has carefully masterplanned large sites and tried, where it can, to weave in trees, public realm and public spaces, which is exactly the right way forward. I was pleased to see that it has now been taken over by the Wellcome Trust, which says something about the sort of projects that it will take forward in the future: high-quality, sustainable communities. I have made it a personal priority to ensure that new developments are well-planned. That is why we brought forward the national model design code, and we are also changing the law so that all new streets that are built in this country will be tree lined.