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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 5:24 pm on 15th May 2018.

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Photo of Andrew Lewer Andrew Lewer Conservative, Northampton South 5:24 pm, 15th May 2018

I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I acknowledge the Government’s commitment to bettering the housing market, to which end a total of £44 billion of capital funding, loans and guarantees has been pledged, up to 2022-23.

As we have said, more than 1.1 million homes have been delivered since 2010—217,000 last year—and a target is in place to deliver 300,000 net additional homes per year on average by the mid-2020s. House building needs to be tailored to each region and met with the appropriate infrastructure, and I am pleased to say that the Government have taken measures to address that, with the £866 million fund specifically designed for housing-related infrastructure. It has already funded 133 projects.

However, it is time to consider how those incentives can be more effectively unlocked and rendered less bureaucratic—a source of concern for those who are in the industry and those facilitating developments more generally. National development plans need to both make way and create incentives for local authorities to engage in house building and infrastructure building. The “development control” mentality has not served everyone well for the past 50-plus years. In my view, real localism—not just the lip-service variety—will work more effectively with a network of unitary authorities with realistic tax bases relative to their cost bases, which do not excessively hem in their urban or even suburban core with the significant council tax implications that has.

I am pleased that that is now policy at Northampton Borough Council. It has endorsed that vision, which will assist the town’s prosperity in all sorts of ways. In the context of today’s debate, it will allow expansion without the risk of conflicting local plans, allow better highways and housing integrated working and promote joined-up thinking between housing, social care and health.

I want to mention compulsory purchase orders, which I have reservations about. Although they can boost success in the short term—notably, with some of the developments in the 1950s and 1960s—they have to be used sparingly, where compelling national or local key interests are at stake and not just for convenience.