We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Housing and Homes

Part of Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 15th May 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of John Healey John Healey Shadow Secretary of State for Housing 4:45 pm, 15th May 2018

My hon. Friend is right. The number of families—now nearly 80,000—living in temporary accommodation because there are no homes available, let alone homes in their own area, is a scandal that shames us all. I am interested to hear what the Secretary of State has to say. It is not just in Newham; he has been in government since 2010, since when his own council has seen a fivefold increase in the number of families without a home living in temporary accommodation.

The Secretary of State said that we are now investing more in affordable homes, and he cited £9 billion, which of course is the figure for the rest of this Parliament. Even if that money is spent, spending will still be half the level it was in Labour’s last year. To give people a measure of it: in Labour’s last year, spending on building new, badly needed affordable homes was £4 billion; and last year, under this Government, whatever they say, it was less than half a billion pounds. No wonder we saw 40,000 new social rented homes started in 2009, in that last Labour year, and last year we saw fewer than 1,000.

The £28 million for the Housing First pilots is welcome, but let me gently say to the Housing Secretary that that is a small drop when compared with the £996 million the National Audit Office says is the annual cut in the Supporting People programme since 2010—a programme to help the homeless. Finally, the right hon. Gentleman makes the welcome argument that we need more social rented homes, but what does he say to the residents in his own area, where 6,022 are on the council waiting list and the number of new social homes rented homes built last year was zero? He has a lot to pick up on and a lot to learn.

We have seen eight years of failure on all fronts since 2010, and it is no wonder that the Prime Minister admitted that housing was a big part of why her party did badly at last year’s general election. As the Secretary of State has said, as the Prime Minister has said and as I have argued, the housing market is broken, and housing policy is failing to fix it.

I say to Conservative Members that at the heart of Tory policy is the wrong answer to the wrong question. Ministers talk big about total house building targets, but what new homes we build and who they are for is just as important as how many we build. Simply building more market-priced homes will not help many of those who face a cost-of-housing crisis, because that can influence prices only in the very long term. We have to build more affordable homes if we want to make homes more affordable, and the public know that. It is why eight out of 10 people now say the Government should be doing more to get new affordable homes built.

The public expect much more of Ministers—more urgency, more responsibility, more investment and more action to fix this broken housing market. That is why Labour has set out a bold, long-term plan for housing. It is what people need from their Government. We have made the commitment, with the plan to back it, that under a Labour Government we would see 1 million new genuinely affordable homes built over 10 years: the largest council house building programme for more than 30 years, building those new affordable homes at a rate we have not seen in this country since the 1970s. The very term “affordable” has been so misused by Ministers that it is mistrusted by the public, so Ministers should drop it and replace it with a new Labour definition linked to local incomes, not pegged to market prices.

We must build for those who need it, including the most vulnerable and the poorest, with a big boost to new social homes built as part of the programme, but we should also build Labour’s new affordable homes, both to rent and to buy, for those in work and on ordinary incomes, who are priced out of the housing market and being failed by current housing policy. These people are the just-coping class in Britain. They are the people doing the jobs we all depend on—IT workers, delivery drivers, call centre workers, teaching assistants, electricians and nurses. They are the backbone of our economy and the heart of our public services. This is the same Labour aspiration that led Aneurin Bevan to talk of the “living tapestry” of mixed communities as he led the big house building programme after the second world war.