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I draw colleagues’ attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
Let me start by responding to a point made by Dr Blackman-Woods. She referred to the Government’s house building record; let me tell the House that it is a fine one. In the last year of the previous Labour Government, only 125,000 units were started. Last year, that figure had increased to 165,000 units, so this Government have a record they can be proud of when it comes to building new homes.
The hon. Lady and the Chair of the Select Committee, Mr Betts, also talked about the need to increase supply more generally, and we on this side of the House wholeheartedly agree with that. There is much in the Bill with which their lordships have thankfully chosen not to disagree that will increase supply, including local development orders, the requirement to have local plans in place by 2017 and the work of the London Land Commission. There is a huge amount in the Bill that will increase supply, which Opposition Members have asked for.
I want to say a word in support of starter homes. We know that 86% of the citizens of this country aspire to own their own home, and starter homes will help them to do that. By owning their own home, they will benefit economically as house values go up and they pay down their mortgages, and social benefits will accrue as well. We have heard a lot from Opposition Members about the importance of settled and rooted communities. What better way is there of having a settled and well-established community than by ensuring that it is a community of people who own their own homes?
Opposition Members also talked about affordability, speaking about the ceiling of £450,000 in London and £250,000 outside the capital. That is a ceiling; it is a maximum. My borough, the London Borough of Croydon, is the largest borough by population. The average starter home there will cost £190,000. That means that, with Help to Buy, a deposit of £10,000 will secure a home, and a couple earning £22,500 each will be able to afford to service the mortgage on it. In the London Borough of Croydon, starter homes will work.
On the point about increasing the supply of council houses, I must respectfully point out that in the past five years of a Conservative Government, we have built more than in the previous 13 years under Labour. I would further point out that under the rules governing the disposal of high-value council houses, one such house will replace every one that is sold outside London, and it will be two for one in London. These measures will actually increase the supply of council housing across London as a whole, so they should be welcomed.
The problem with the amendment relating to the 20 years’ discount is that if someone wants to move from their starter home, they will need to realise its full market value in order to move up the property ladder to their second and then their third home. I believe that we might see regulations that would allow for a sliding scale, perhaps between five and 10 years. Given that the average length of time spent in a property is about seven years, that would make sense.
On the amendment about local authorities being able to circumvent starter home provisions, I must point out that our proposals were part of a national manifesto commitment that was approved by the electorate at the general election, so it is quite right that they should now be implemented nationally. Local issues will be fully accounted for via the 20% discount on the open market value, which will reflect local housing need.
There is more that I could say, but I am sure that we all want to hear from the Minister. I support the Government’s position on the amendments and look forward to supporting them in the Lobby.