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Housing and Planning Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:18 pm on 2nd November 2015.

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Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Mayor of London 6:18 pm, 2nd November 2015

Labour is making many mistakes in opposing this excellent Bill. It is wrong to say that this is a national problem. I could take Members to some parts of our country, to some great cities, where there is not a housing crisis in the way that it is expressed in London. According to local papers—I have no reason to doubt them—there are homes for sale for less than £10,000. There are huge expanses of brownfield sites available in some urban areas in this city. In spite of all the excitement about the northern powerhouse, the population of Manchester is still a third lower than it was in 1931. I make that point to show that the crisis, which does affect us all, is overwhelmingly expressed in the south-east and, above all, in London, where it is at its most acute, as we have heard from Members from across the Chamber. The shortage is excruciating for those trying both to rent and to buy. That suffering was well articulated in the previous speech as well as by my hon. Friend Zac Goldsmith, in particular. It is vital, as everybody has said, to continue with our exertions to build record numbers of new homes and affordable homes in London.

I remind the House, despite the frenzy that we have just heard from Labour, that this mayoralty has worked flat out over the past eight years to make up for the passivity and inertia of the previous Labour Government and the locust years in which they failed to build enough affordable housing. If we were to have another Labour Mayor, which I devoutly hope we will not, I remind Labour that the previous Labour Mayor, at the height of the boom and at a time when the public sector was flush with cash, came absolutely nowhere near our record of building affordable homes. We have beaten him by 25% of our total, as my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park said, and this year more new affordable homes have been completed than in any year since records began.

We are compensating for the instinctive hostility to home ownership exhibited by Labour, with 52,000 people helped into part-buy, part-rent schemes. That is why I so warmly welcome the provisions in the Bill. I am glad to hear the support for right to buy expressed by some hon. Members and it is right that we should give housing association tenants that right. We are righting an historical injustice and we deserve to hear whether those on the Labour Front Bench support the Labour Back Benchers who support our policy of extending the right to buy. We have heard some passionate defences of it. Symmetrically, it must also be right where possible to sell off high-value council homes and use the proceeds to fund not just the subsidy but the construction of new homes.

Members might not be aware that London already has a huge stock of social housing, with 33% of homes in the centre of the city social homes of one type or another, compared with only 7% in Manhattan and 17% in Paris. Across the whole of Greater London, the figure is 24%. High-value council homes could be sold, with the proceeds used to build more low-cost homes in London. Given what I have said about the geographical location of the housing crisis and given that it is in the capital where we have the demand, I am grateful for what we are hearing from the Government and from Members who spoke supporting this argument. It would be the height of insanity to take the funds yielded by those council home sales and spend them outside London on the right-to-buy subsidy without ensuring that we get at the very least a legally binding and funded commitment to a two-for-one replacement for those homes in London. I know that that is what we are working on and that it is widely supported by Members across the Government Benches. That would help us to build the 50,000 homes a year that we can build. We have the brownfield sites to do it.

I welcome the changes to the planning rules in the Bill and the continued support for the London Land Commission. We are working flat out to build more homes in this city than at any time since the 1930s, keeping pace with demand. The Bill will streamline planning, help us to assemble the public land we need and give tens of thousands of people the joy and pride of home ownership, a right that they are at present unfairly denied, and the opportunity that is at present most bitterly contested by bourgeois lefties, almost all of whom already own their own homes.