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What is a starter home?

Part of Housing and Planning Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 3rd May 2016.

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Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government) 5:45 pm, 3rd May 2016

I am just going to complete this point. We will deliver on the mandate to deliver 200,000 starter homes, ensuring that we deliver homes for first-time buyers at a discount of at least 20% on the local market price.

We have also recognised in discussions in the other place that small sites in rural areas, known as rural exception sites, may require additional discretion on starter homes. Those details should be on the face of the Bill. We have listened to concerns that a compulsory requirement would disrupt the supply of rural exception sites. My noble Friend Baroness Williams of Trafford committed to bring back an amendment to give councils local discretion on rural exception sites. I am pleased to be able to honour that commitment in amendment (a) in lieu of amendments 9 and 10.

When I talk to developers and local authorities around sites around the country, they tell me that one benefit of starter homes is that more affordable housing may be delivered because developers will be allowed to deliver more. I have spoken to a number of developers who have said that the difference that starter homes would make is the ability to deliver 5% or even 10% more affordable housing in some developments in their areas.

There was a lot of discussion, both here and in the other place, about our plans to deliver the ground- breaking voluntary right-to-buy agreement through the sale of higher-value housing. It was another manifesto commitment passed from this House to the other place, and it is another change that we are discussing today. Amendments 37 and 184 would mean a considerable delay in receiving payments from local authorities, and therefore in delivering our manifesto commitment to extend the right to buy to housing association tenants. We remain convinced that the determination is the most appropriate way of setting out the information about the payment a local authority will be expected to make to the Secretary of State in respect of its higher-value housing. The key elements that will determine how much an authority will be expected to pay are set out on the face of the Bill. That includes the housing to be taken into account and the definition of vacancy.

The Government have listened carefully to the arguments made by hon. Members when the Bill was last debated and the contributions of all those in the other place. We have amended the Bill to ensure that local authorities are not disproportionately affected by the plans. The definition of higher value and the types of properties to be excluded will be set out in regulations and therefore subject to further parliamentary scrutiny.

I want to be clear with the House once again. In the other place, the Opposition were clear that they did not press the clauses enabling the voluntary right to buy to a vote and acknowledged our mandate for funding it. However, amendments 37 and 184 would seriously hamper our ability to implement it and so should be returned straightaway. The same applies to amendment 47, which is extremely restrictive and would prevent the Government from considering whether local authorities can actually deliver the required housing. We want to ensure that the Government can enter into agreements with local authorities about their local needs. By focusing solely on social housing, the amendment would prevent the agreement process from recognising that flexibility will be needed to respond to the country’s diverse housing needs—we have already heard from hon. Friends about the different needs in different places this afternoon—and that other types of housing may better meet local housing need.

I find it difficult to listen to those who accuse us of not being localist while tabling amendments that would mandate an old-fashioned, top-down approach. We want to ensure that we give local authorities with particular housing needs the opportunity to reach bespoke agreements on the delivery of different types of new homes.