Social Housing (Southern England)

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Transport and the Regions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20 March 2001.

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Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 12:00, 20 March 2001

What estimate he has made of the need for additional social housing in southern England. [152917]

Photo of Nick Raynsford Nick Raynsford Minister of State (Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions) (The Regions)

Because of the wide variation in need between different parts of the country, the Government believe that local authorities are best placed to carry out local housing needs assessments. In determining housing requirements for their regions, and in order to meet the full range of housing needs, regional planning bodies may have to estimate the future balance between general market and affordable housing. Draft regional planning guidance for the south-east suggests a provisional indicator of 18,000 to 19,000 affordable homes per year, and draft regional planning guidance for the south-west suggests a figure of between 6,000 and 10,000 per year.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

That is an extraordinary statement from the Minister, given that his Department is interfering and preventing New Forest district council, which is a beacon council, from getting on with the job of building social houses to relieve homelessness. Is not that why 50,000 fewer social dwellings have been built under this Government than were built in the preceding four years?

Photo of Nick Raynsford Nick Raynsford Minister of State (Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions) (The Regions)

New Forest district council has done extremely well under this Government. In the coming financial year, it will receive a housing allocation of more than £5 million, which is 25 per cent. higher than in the current year and 88 per cent. higher than the allocation when the Tories were last in power. This Government are giving more money to local authorities and more money for housing.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Labour, Southampton, Test

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in order to assess the need for additional social housing it is a good idea to have some plan of the overall housing need in any region? Does he agree that a policy of abdicating the need for any planning guidance or planning decision in favour of allowing local authorities to build housing in their own areas, as the Conservative party believes, is a recipe for little or no social housing or for such provision to be unpredictable? Will he commit himself to ensuring that, in planning regional housing need, careful consideration will be given to what level of social housing is required and how it can best be provided?

Photo of Nick Raynsford Nick Raynsford Minister of State (Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions) (The Regions)

My hon. Friend rightly emphasises the fact that it is important to make a proper assessment of the considerably varying needs from area to area. That is why we put the focus on local authorities analysing the needs of their own areas. We think that it is right and appropriate for regional planning bodies to estimate the balance between affordable, social housing and general market housing. That is an essential element in developing a proper analysis of each region's needs to inform local authorities' local plans. We will adopt that approach to ensure that a serious analysis is conducted region by region and local authority by local authority.