The hon. Gentleman ought to bear in mind the fact that in that period, funding for social housing new build declined by half—a decline that we are now putting right. We took a clear decision that the priority needed to be dealing with the colossal £19 billion backlog of refurbishment and modernisation of social housing stock. We are now investing seriously in the building of new social housing, but there are problems, as I shall explain. There will always be a need for new houses everywhere, and we want that need to be met, but new build housing on the largest scale is required only in certain parts of the country.
That is why the Housing Corporation's approved development programme is increasingly targeted at the areas that need it most: London and the south-east. I have to tell the House, and Mr. Gray, that the blunt truth is that those areas are also the areas of highest cost generally and of mounting construction and land costs, which means that the number of housing units completed for any given input has tended to decline.
Nevertheless, we are resolved to accelerate new building where it is most needed. The sustainable communities plan, published in February 2003, announced the development of four growth areas in London and the wider south-east, which have the potential to deliver an extra 200,000 homes over the next 10 to 15 years. Affordable housing is a key part of that development.