What steps the Government are taking to increase the number of affordable homes in rural areas.
More than 119,000 affordable homes have been delivered in rural communities since 2010. Homes England has invested £142 million in the rural affordable homes programme schemes in the past four years, which is around 9% of total spend.
I very much welcome those figures on affordable homes. There are redundant farm building sites, which could be classed as brownfield sites. If they were, that would release a lot more land for affordable homes. Will the Minister consider that, please?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right: we have introduced a requirement for each local authority to publish registers of brownfield land. More than 90% of local authorities have done so, and the information to date suggests that nearly 16,500 brownfield sites covering 26,000 hectares have already been identified in England alone.
As well as helping rural areas, what is the Minister going to do for places such as Birmingham? How will he respond to the council’s request for additional assistance with the provision of new homes, essential maintenance on existing properties and the discharge of statutory obligations, such as health and safety and annual gas inspections?
Since 2010, we have delivered more than 370,000 new affordable homes, but of course we are ambitious to do more—working with housing associations and local mayors such as Andy Street. Of course, we have raised the housing revenue account borrowing cap for local authorities to give them greater flexibility.
In welcoming my hon. Friend to his new role, may I ask him to look, with the intellectual vigour that I know he has, into what national parks do to supply affordable homes? They are not exempt from the need.
My right hon. Friend has considerable experience, both as a Minister and as a long-standing Member. We will certainly look into all such matters because we are absolutely committed to using every lever that we possibly can to increase home building in this country for the next generation.
One of the best ways to provide more affordable homes to rent in rural and, indeed, urban areas is through the provision of more co-operative housing. What further co-operative housing initiatives are the Minister and his Department thinking of pursuing?
The hon. Gentleman is right, and a lot of social housing is of a co-operative nature. It particularly depends on any given community’s specific needs, which are often for the local authorities to help to identify. Local authorities in rural areas need to focus on the particular needs of their communities. For example, some areas have rural exception sites, which provide long-term protection for affordable homes in rural areas.