Housing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 5th May 2004.

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Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Housing and Planning) 3:31 pm, 5th May 2004

Well, the Minister will know that Shelter has said that it is a profound disappointment that the Government have failed to deal with those fundamental issues of homelessness. They tell me that more than 100,000 children become homeless in England every year. Some 500,000 households are officially overcrowded, including 300,000 families with children. Only 31,000 new affordable homes were built in 2003, compared with more than 60,000 when we were in government in 1993–94. More than 3 million households live in poor housing.

I welcome the Government's success in meeting their target on bed-and- breakfast accommodation. It is good that 4,000 families in bed-and-breakfast accommodation have been moved into more appropriate accommodation, but at least 9,000 families living in bed-and-breakfast accommodation are not covered by the target. We heard about some of them in the debate today. We heard about those families who are referred to temporary accommodation through social services. We heard about some of the asylum seeker families with children who are not included in the figures. We heard about many families who are housed in unsuitable, inappropriate accommodation, in hostels and elsewhere. Yes, a small target has been hit and a pledge has been met, but there are bigger targets and many more significant matters. There are many greater indictments of the Government, not merely from the Opposition but from all those who share our concern for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

The Government are failing on homelessness. They are also failing on house building. Much has been made of house building in the debate and I acknowledge that there is a housing crisis, but the real crisis is housing mix; it is about the match between the availability of particular types of houses and the need for them. For example, there is a real problem in social housing, where the number of houses built has halved under the Government. There is a real problem in relation to accommodation for single-person households because much of the building in the market sector has been three or four-bedroomed houses, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells pointed out. Indeed, according to figures produced by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, that trend is likely to continue unabated. The real problem is about the marriage between provision and need, and the Government show no signs of dealing with it.