Affordable Housing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:48 pm on 22nd October 2002.

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Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Secretary of State for Transport 4:48 pm, 22nd October 2002

The manifesto proposed a range of solutions for the crisis that I am describing. If the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, I shall list several measures that were contained in the manifesto that would—I am sure he will agree—be sufficient to solve the problem. I hope that we will see much agreement across the Chamber tonight.

What do the problems mean in real terms for real people? In Friday's Evening Standard, I read about Emily Hill, aged 27, who teaches at Forest Hill school in Lewisham, where the shortage of affordable housing is acute. She earns #21,000 a year and is unable to find an affordable home. Indeed, only six new affordable houses have been completed in Lewisham since January. As a result of Emily Hill's particular problem, she may have to leave London.

The housing problem varies from one part of the country to another. Bath, for example, has increasing difficulty attracting so-called key workers. Applications for teaching jobs are falling dramatically, because potential applicants fear that they will not be able to find somewhere to live. An average home in Bath costs some #160,000, which is nine times the average starting salary for a teacher. Even a one-bedroom flat is likely to be beyond the means of a new teacher. We also have difficulty attracting nurses to our Royal United hospital. For a nurse, the average house price is 10 times his or her likely salary.

With such house prices, rents have also become unaffordable for teachers, nurses and other young people and families. Before anyone suggests that the Government's key worker scheme will help, I should point out that funds for the scheme are such that only 10 teachers in my constituency are likely to benefit. I question the merits of a scheme that is likely to fuel house prices instead of helping the vast majority of key workers. Surely it would be better to use the funds in building more affordable homes.