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Affordable Housing: Social Homes for Rent

Volume 792: debated on Tuesday 3 July 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many social homes for rent they estimate will be built under the affordable housing programme.

My Lords, since 2010, we have delivered over 378,000 affordable homes, including 129,000 at social rent. Last week, we announced a £1.67 billion government investment deal that will deliver an additional 23,000 affordable homes outside of London, including at least 12,500 at social rent in areas where they are needed the most. This is part of the Government’s £9 billion investment in affordable homes. The total number of homes delivered will depend on the bids received.

I thank the Minister for his Answer, and I am genuinely pleased to see any increase in social housing. However, let us take that figure of 12,500, which my own authority will be bidding for—that actually equates to 25 homes a year. I am sure the Minister is aware that delivery is actually down. The numbers sound grand until you realise that 40,000 affordable homes were delivered in 2010 but the figure was down to 5,500 in 2016-17. Last year, 12,000 homes were lost to right to buy alone. Can the Minister understand why these proposals and the figures that he outlined are loose change in response to the evidenced need? Will he reassure us that the forthcoming Green Paper will be both bold and radical in its attempt to solve what I believe is a real social crisis?

My Lords, I am glad that the noble Baroness welcomes the progress made. In 2016-17, the year to which she referred, we saw 217,350 new homes delivered—the highest number in all but one of the previous 30 years.

My Lords, I draw the attention of the House to my interests as set out in the register. How many homes for social rent have been lost since 2012 due to government policy requiring conversion to affordable rent, and how many will be lost under the same policy if it continues until 2020?

My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, the affordable rent figures are generally the measure that is used. I have referred to the additional 23,000 affordable homes outside of London that we are committed to. He will know that we have a separate agreement with the Mayor of London, who is going to provide 26,000 affordable homes, although not as many at social rent as outside of London. I am sure the noble Lord will be pleased at the progress that is being made.

Is my noble friend aware that the key element of affordable homes for rent lies with council housing? Is it not a fact that the last Labour Government produced precisely just over 500 homes a year for the previous three years—statistics which are in the Library for all to see? Against that background, the figures given by the Minister are greatly to be welcomed. In addition, can we soon expect a Statement on new towns or garden towns?

My Lords, on council houses, over the 13 years under Labour from 1997 to 2010, some 2,920 council homes were built whereas between 2010 and 2017, more than three times that number were built in a shorter period. On the general position as regards council housing, my noble friend will know that the £1 billion borrowing that we have committed to is now open for bids around the country. I think that 137 local authorities have shown an interest in this and bids are open until 7 September this year. He also referred to new towns, which are an important part of our programme. Next Monday my noble friend Lord Young will be presenting to the House some statutory instruments on these issues.

My Lords, is it not the case that the last Labour Government spent millions and millions on bringing homes up to a decent standard after they inherited housing which was in a worse state than it had been for many years?

My Lords, I am afraid that the figures speak for themselves. Far more housing has been built in the past seven years than was built under 13 years of Labour. While I grant that it is important to ensure that homes are fit for occupation, it is far more important that we build houses that are fit for occupation. As I say, the figures speak for themselves by showing a massive improvement over the past few years.

My Lords, I refer to my interests as declared in the register. My noble friend said that over the past year, 12,000 social homes have been sold under the right-to-buy scheme. Perhaps I may remind the Minister that current estimates suggest that the commitment that the Government made a few years ago on a one-for-one replacement of homes sold under the right to buy has not been achieved, and on current announcements made in the past few days, it will not be achieved? Might the Government consider permitting local authorities to keep 100% of right-to-buy receipts?

My Lords, inherent in the noble Lord’s question is the importance of right to buy—and, indeed, refreshed right to buy and enhanced right to buy—which I acknowledge. I agree with him about the importance of permitting local authorities to use those receipts to build more. That has been happening at a greater rate, but I acknowledge that he is right to say that more could be done.

Thank you, I am most grateful. I congratulate the Government on moving towards more genuinely affordable low rents. We are seeing a swing in the pendulum; I hope that it is just the start of a swing that goes a lot further than it has done so far, but we are now heading in the right direction. Can the Minister impress on his Treasury colleagues that it really is important that rents are low enough for people genuinely to afford because otherwise the Treasury is paying more in housing benefit, people’s work incentives are much worse, and we end up with homelessness? We can see already that housing associations and councils have to turn people away because those on the lowest incomes cannot afford the so-called “affordable rents”. It would be to the benefit of the Treasury if the Minister could argue the case for more grant aid in support of real social rents.

My Lords, the noble Lord has done a massive amount in this area. I acknowledge that a lot of my life is spent arguing with the Treasury about various issues, as he can imagine, but I would impress on him that when rent controls were in place, we had a far less vibrant rental market than we do now. We would not want to go back to that sort of control.

My Lords, will the noble Lord answer my noble friend’s question? The inheritance of council stock in 1997 was so bad that the resources of the Labour Government had to be put into restoring them to anywhere like living capacity.

I would not acknowledge that. I acknowledge that work was done on that basis but I do not think that the Labour Party or Labour Government should get off the hook on their deplorable record of council house building in that period.