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House of Lords Hansard
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Homes for Social Rent
02 July 2019
Volume 798

Question

Asked by

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to increase the number of homes for social rent.

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My Lords, a £9 billion affordable housing programme will support the delivery of at least 12,500 social rent homes in areas of high affordability pressure outside London. We are providing the Mayor of London with a £4.8 billion funding package and the flexibility to deliver social rent. The GLA is responsible for the delivery of affordable housing in London. In September 2018, we announced £2 billion of long-term funding for housing associations, supporting the delivery of additional affordable homes, including homes for social rent. Last week, we opened bidding on £1 billion of this funding through Homes England.

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I thank the Minister for that reply but, according to independent research, we have a shortage of 3.91 million homes and need to build 340,000 homes per year until 2031—new homes, more quickly and to a more consistently high standard. What are the Government doing to incentivise innovation in the housing sector, and what support is being given to SMEs to challenge current housing issues, using volumetric technology in offsite manufacturing?

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My Lords, the noble Lord is right about the challenges that we face. Just this morning I met Mark Farmer, who is heading up the committee that is looking at, and rolling out, modern methods of construction. We are making significant progress. An app has been developed specifically for London but it can be rolled out across the country with minor amendments, which is great news for us all. It covers design, climate change responsibilities and speedy delivery. The committee is making headway on bringing together the standards that we need so that money is advanced by lenders.

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My Lords, does the Minister accept that the £2 billion put into the not very affordable housing programme falls woefully short of the £14.6 billion per year of capital grant recommended last week by the National Housing Federation and others? Without it, we will continue to see the nearly 40-year legacy of chronic failure to build social, not affordable, housing—a policy that has now driven our most vulnerable into the arms of the most unscrupulous parts of the private sector.

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My Lords, I accept that we need to deliver more social housing. That has been the case for some time, including through the coalition years. However, I point out to the noble Baroness that last year we had the best year of housing delivery overall for 31 years in all but one year, and that is good news for all of us.

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Does my noble friend recognise that social housing has been lamentable for perhaps the last 20 years across all Governments, including the Labour and coalition Governments? Against that background, perhaps I may press him once again to look at new towns and gardens towns to make sure that they have a major element of social housing provision?

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My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his point about social housing delivery. He is right that it has been a challenge for successive Governments. We have delivered 79,000 social homes since 2010, which, it has to be said, is better than the numbers achieved in the previous nine years. In relation to his point about garden villages, we had previously announced 29 and last week we announced another 19. That is significant. It includes providing a special community village for dementia-friendly housing, which again is very good news, and I hope that that will also feed into the discussions that we are having about modern methods of construction.

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My Lords, I welcome very much that last answer. In that connection I declare an interest, in that I have set up a commission to look into the housing crisis and the contribution that can be made by civil society and particularly the Churches. It comprises a former Permanent Secretary and a huge number of significant experts. One of the commission’s earliest priorities is to look at how we create communities rather than simply build houses. That means that there is a need for multipurpose community facilities and for looking at the sociological aspects as well as the mere physical construction. Will the Minister undertake to listen to the representations from that and similar inquiries over the next 18 months to two years?

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I thank the most reverend Primate very much for that contribution and I certainly give that undertaking. It is not just a question of putting up more housing; it is very important that we create or build on effective communities with the additional housing that we are looking at. That is a challenge. It is at the heart of the garden towns and villages programme and we want to carry that forward.

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My Lords, this is Rural Housing Week, as I am sure all noble Lords are well aware. Rural housing is extraordinarily important because house prices are higher in rural areas, incomes are lower and a much larger proportion of homes are being sold under right to buy. Some schools are closing and we are getting child-free villages. Will the Minister allow me, at the National Housing Federation’s rural housing conference tomorrow, to say that the Government will indeed prioritise those small village schemes that can make such an immense difference to a community, allowing people to work, live and bring up their families in villages?

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My Lords, I know better than to try to stop the noble Lord doing just that. I am keen to associate myself with that during what, as he rightly says, is Rural Housing Week. We do this already, although I recognise the challenges, having represented a deeply rural area. We do already have rural exceptions and provide weighting for housing developments because of the small and medium-sized enterprises prevalent in rural areas. The noble Lord is absolutely right: we need to do more.

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My Lords, I refer the House to my relevant interests in the register. Does the Minister support an increase in the number of co-operative housing schemes? If so, what support do he and his department give to local authorities and others to increase the number of schemes year on year?

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My Lords, I know the noble Lord is very wedded to this and I am certainly happy to look at it. If he has specific schemes that he wants me to look at, I will very gladly do that with him. We have to be much more open-minded and diverse in forms of supply across the board. Certainly, the Co-operative movement and co-operative housing have a lot to offer in this regard.