Backbench Business — [25th Allotted Day] — Social Housing in London

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 3:11 pm on 5th May 2011.

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Photo of Heidi Alexander Heidi Alexander Labour, Lewisham East 3:11 pm, 5th May 2011

Well, I am really pleased to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the housing association—it is quite a large one, London and Quadrant—responded superbly when I contacted it. I am pleased to say that that gentleman has been moved to the flat that he wanted. So there are cases where housing associations respond and provide the sort of services people need, but that is not to say that there are not other circumstances in which couples desperately need to live in a more suitable home but cannot achieve that. There are hundreds of people whom I have seen in my surgeries and out on the doorstep since I became an MP whose families are living in desperately overcrowded situations—and it is mainly for those people that I make my remarks in today’s debate.

I shall speak on three main themes. The first is the massive need, as others have mentioned, for more homes that people can afford to rent. The second is the Government’s proposals on housing and how they relate to the wider welfare reform changes. I have a number of concerns about how they interrelate. Thirdly, I shall speak briefly on a topic that has not been mentioned so far—the proposed changes to the planning system and how some of them might result in fewer homes, particularly affordable homes, being built. I shall reflect on how proposals in the Localism Bill might make it harder to build the affordable homes that London needs.

Let me deal with the supply side first. We know that 350,000 people are on the social housing waiting list in London, and that one in 10 households are living in overcrowded conditions. As others have said, there is undoubtedly a massive need for more homes in London that people can afford to rent. Tackling the problem of under-occupation has been mentioned, and some argue that people are living in properties that are too big for the number of people living in them. I have seen research that shows that even if we tackled the problem of under-occupation in London completely, it would come nowhere near to solving the housing crisis.