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Housing: Long-Term Plan

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:33 pm on 9th February 2016.

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Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government) 4:33 pm, 9th February 2016

My hon. Friend makes a good point. To be fair to him, the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale referred to that fact. We should be proud that the coalition Government were the first Government in a generation to see an increase in affordable housing by the end of a Parliament, unlike the previous Government. My hon. Friend highlights the work we are doing and the changes we are making that are seeing housing supply go up. I will come to that in a few moments.

The Government are determined that everyone who works hard will be able to have a home of their own. After all, 86% of the population want to own their own home. Whoever you are and wherever you live, we want to support your ambition and aspiration to own your own home. That is not just a manifesto commitment of the Conservative party; it is an aspiration that is shared by the vast majority of the British public. That is why we are embarking on the largest Government house building programme for some 40 years. We aim to build a million homes by 2020 and to help hundreds of thousands of people to take their first steps on to the housing ladder. We will consolidate and expand on the progress that we have made since 2010, when we inherited a housing market on its knees.

Let me remind the House what our inheritance was—our shared inheritance: a burst housing bubble, an industry in debt, sites mothballed, workers laid off, skills lost, a net loss of some 420,000 affordable homes, rocketing social housing waiting lists and a collapse in right-to-buy sales, with just one home being built for every 170 sold.

Those failures were accompanied by a post-war low in house building by councils, a sustained fall in home ownership—the shadow Housing Minister was quite “pleased” about that, if I remember his quote correctly—and chaos in the regulation of lending. Underpinning that gigantic sorry mess was a planning system in disarray, presiding over the lowest level of house building since the 1920s with just 88,000 starts. The hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale may struggle to remember that, but I know that the right hon.—and absent—Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) will have no such problem, because he was the Minister in charge at the time.

It is terrifying to think of where we would be today if we had not gripped those problems and applied the right solutions. In the previous Parliament, the number of first-time buyers doubled, as did the number of new homes built and public support for new house building. We helped more than 270,000 households buy a home with Government schemes, provided more than 270,000 affordable homes for rent—with nearly one third of those in London—and we were the first Government since the 1980s to finish their term with a higher stock of affordable homes.

We spent £20 billion on our affordable housing programmes, achieving the same rate of delivery with half the grant required by Labour policies. We built more, it cost less, and we did it faster. As the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale said, twice as many council homes were built in the five years of the coalition Government than during 13 years of Labour, and I reiterate that his party should be rightly proud of its role in achieving that progress.