We have put in place powerful tools and incentives to support local communities in tackling empty homes. Particularly through the new homes bonus, communities will receive a direct financial reward for bringing an empty home back into use, and, of course, we are investing £100 million in tackling empty homes directly.
I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is a scandal that we have in this country 300,000 homes that have been empty for longer than six months. In Blackpool and Wyre, the number of empty homes actually fell last year, and I want to give credit to the work of Blackpool council’s working group, which is working with other agencies to reduce that number. However, the investment that we will announce later this month will make a big difference to the figures nationally, and, I hope, in his area.
I draw the House’s attention to my previous declarations of an indirect interest, which are a matter of record.
Although I welcome all attempts to bring empty homes back into use—I saw some excellent examples during the recess of self-help schemes that do just that, including in Leeds and Hull—homelessness and rent have increased, as the Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, admitted over the weekend. It was therefore surprising that his colleague, the Housing and Local Government Minister, wrote to me during the recess to seek my guidance and ideas from Labour’s policy thinking. That was from a man who pointed out that the shadow Minister was going to—
Order. May I ask the hon. Lady to come straight away to a question? That is what we are here for.
I just thought that that would be an interesting point, Mr Speaker.
Even with the net addition of empty homes being brought back into use, can the Minister tell us when he expects house building under his Government to exceed the 207,000 net additions achieved under Labour in the year before the recession hit?
What I will say is that our investment in social housing, which we announced in the comprehensive spending review with the aim of delivering 150,000 homes, will in fact deliver 170,000 homes. That is a massive success which will increase the stock of social housing above and beyond Labour’s targets.
Will my hon. Friend put pressure on his colleagues in the Ministry of Defence to see how they can bring back the many hundreds—if not thousands—of married quarters that stand empty around the country?
I certainly hear with great sympathy what my hon. Friend says. We could perhaps have a discussion separately on how we can co-operate to deliver that result.
In the five years that empty homes management orders have been in force—they were introduced in 2006—only 46 have been made by local authorities across the country. That contrasts with the 300,000 empty homes, but they are the back-stop. I am happy to say that a lot of good work is done by many local authorities and other agencies to bring homes back into use. I intend to accelerate that process dramatically.
That is absolutely true. There has been a substantial failure of the market in bringing many of these homes back into use. That is exactly what our proposals, which are being announced later this month, are intended to address.