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

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 5:24 pm on 5th May 2011.

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Photo of Karen Buck Karen Buck Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 5:24 pm, 5th May 2011

I am sorry; I meant my hon. Friend Lyn Brown.

All those speeches addressed, with slightly different emphases, the impact of the housing crisis on people—on families in overcrowded accommodation, homeless families and families forced into constant moves and changes of address. The statistics matter, but it is important that we should remember that people are at the heart of the issue. I suspect that most of us in the Chamber, on both sides, have sat in advice surgeries with people weeping with distress as they have talked about the conditions in which they live and the number of times they have been uprooted and forced to move. They crave only a stable home.

Opposition Members drew out something important about social housing policy—that it has come about as a consequence of market failure. It is precisely because the private housing sector could not meet the needs of low-income and vulnerable people that council housing came about—and before that, there were the great social housing developments of Peabody and Octavia Hill. Subsequently, the housing association movement grew up in response to the catastrophe of the private rented market, particularly in places such as my previous constituency, the home of Rachman and Hoogstraten.

As Jane Ellison said absolutely rightly, most landlords are not bad landlords at all—I am happy to place that on the record. However, the grim truth is that a substantial minority are, which brings the entire sector into disrepute. We already know from the English housing survey that 40% of private houses are below the decent homes standard and the conditions in the private rented sector are worse across the piece; a larger proportion of them fail to meet that standard. That is a particular challenge if vulnerable people are in the part of the market that has failed. That is exactly why the housing association movement developed. It is sad to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith how some housing associations seem to have strayed so much from their original purposes.