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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

That is a very interesting observation. Given that this will be counterproductive in terms of the attempt to tackle the housing crisis, it can only be ideological. It is massively ironic, as well as totally and utterly counterproductive, that outfits such as Lakeland Housing Trust, which looks after 100 or so affordable homes, many of which are gathered through bequests from very well-meaning, decent people who want affordable homes in their communities, will be put under Government diktat that means that, in future, we will be unable to recruit the benefactors who will enable us to provide affordable homes in places such as the Lake District.

The right-to-buy extension is being funded through the sale of high-value council houses. That is an outrage. It will again reduce the homes available for social need without a guarantee of replacement. If this is to happen, councils should be allowed to retain 100% of the sales of those homes to reinvest in housing in their communities —but they will not be permitted to do so.

The Government have stopped councils and housing associations from building thousands of homes that they were planning to build. A 1% cut in social rents is a good thing if it is done fairly, but the Government did not do it fairly; they chose instead to be generous with other people’s money. A rent cut is right, but to make housing associations and the often vulnerable users of their services pay for it is pretty mean and massively counterproductive. In Hampshire, for example, 400 fewer new homes will be built than planned, as a direct result of this policy. At a time when councils should be expanding their building projects, they are being forced to cut back. Consequently, the housing crisis is set to get even worse. At a time when new homes should be encouraged from every direction, the Government are relying on a broken market to deliver, skewing the building of new homes away from being affordable. While we should make home ownership an option for as many as possible, we also need to ensure that there are homes available for those for whom that is not within reach.

Rural areas such as mine in Cumbria face particular challenges in housing. Land for building is hard to find.