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Housing and Homes

Part of Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:28 pm on 15th May 2018.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government 4:28 pm, 15th May 2018

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Local plans are central to setting out how and where local authorities expect to meet residents’ needs for new homes. He has highlighted one council that has had issues, and we will certainly be monitoring the position in York closely. If further significant delays occur, intervention will be reconsidered. We have decided that intervention will continue in three local council areas—Castle Point, Thanet and Wirral—and we will now send in a team of planning experts, led by the Government’s chief planner, to advise on the next steps in that intervention.

As I have already highlighted, this is about looking at infrastructure. That includes projects that are part of the housing packages that we have agreed with the Mayors of Greater Manchester and the West Midlands. We have launched a new, more assertive housing agency, Homes England, which will work to secure land and unlock development on brownfield sites. We are also reforming the system of developer contributions so that developers will know the contributions expected of them and local communities are clear about the infrastructure that they will get alongside new homes.

Thirdly, we want to see a wider range of house builders helping us to deliver more homes. In the past, more than 60% of new homes were delivered by small firms. Today, the number is less than half that, despite the fact that SME builders are keen to contribute. This is why we are supporting these builders to deliver and grow through our home building fund. Over 70% of the original £1 billion short-term home building fund has already been allocated to support SMEs, custom builders and innovators in helping us to deliver more than 25,000 homes. At the autumn Budget, this Government added another £1.5 billion to the fund.

It is right that we are taking action in these areas, but we must not lose sight of the basic issue of fairness. With this is mind, I was delighted that the Tenant Fees Bill was introduced to Parliament soon after my appointment. This very welcome measure delivers on our commitment to end costly letting fees, putting more money in tenants’ pockets. The Bill will also cap tenancy deposits, ensuring that the deposit that they pay at the start cannot exceed six weeks’ rent. For too long, tenants have been stung by unexpected costs such as double-charging for the same services. The Bill will put a stop to such unfair practices, and it complements other measures we have taken to make renting fairer.