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Housing: Long-Term Plan

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:06 pm on 9th February 2016.

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Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Leader of the Liberal Democrats 4:06 pm, 9th February 2016

The hon. Gentleman makes the point that I made a moment or two ago, which is that the coalition’s record was far from perfect. What I would say, however, is that those years were the only time since the 1970s that a Government saw a net increase in the social housing available. It was a matter of a few thousand houses, which is small beer, but that is significantly better than the record of the previous Administration. Perhaps one of the greatest shames that hangs over the 13 years of the Labour Government is that Labour somehow managed to build fewer council houses than Margaret Thatcher, which is quite an achievement.

The reality is that the Housing and Planning Bill will tinker around the edges. It will not bring forward the ambitious, radical plan that Britain desperately needs. Indeed, it has redefined what an affordable home happens to be—apparently, it would include houses of £450,000 in London under its starter homes initiative. There is nothing wrong, by the way, with the idea, at least, of starter homes, but they are for better-off renters. Shelter has calculated that someone would need a £40,000 deposit and a £50,000 salary, and much more in London, to afford one.

There is a place in the market for starter homes, but the way they are being introduced has three fundamental flaws. First, they will not be kept affordable in perpetuity so that future generations can benefit, and the lucky few who get one will make a huge profit. Secondly, they will be instead of, not as well as, other forms of affordable homes. Thirdly, they will be exempt from the community infrastructure levy and section 106 requirements.