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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 6:12 pm on 15th May 2018.

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Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East 6:12 pm, 15th May 2018

It is a pleasure to follow Anneliese Dodds, who made a considered contribution to the debate. I thank Members from across the House for their appreciation for my Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, which has as its centre the aim of reducing the number of people becoming homeless in the first place. Prevention is clearly better than cure, but we have to face up to the fact that, although we can attempt to intervene and to prevent people from becoming homeless, we have to build more homes across the piece that are affordable for people to rent and to buy. That means we have to be radical in our thoughts. The Secretary of State set out a range of things that can be done, but we know that some things need to be done straightaway. He rightly mentioned the Housing First pilots, which I strongly support. However, there are only three pilots, in three parts of the country, whereas this is a nationwide problem. So when my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing answers this debate, I look forward to hearing him say how quickly we will roll out the lessons from the pilots right across the country, so that rough sleepers in other parts of the country can gain the benefit of Housing First, because that is key.

One challenge we face is the unaffordability of housing. One point I lobbied strongly for in the last Budget, and which, I am pleased to say, the Chancellor acceded to, was funding for a national rental deposit scheme and help-to-rent projects. We are yet to hear from the Department as to the various different options that will be rolled out on that. Helping people to rent and providing the deposit would enable 30,000 families to secure their own home, because the one thing they cannot do is raise the deposit to start paying the rent and have a home of their own. We need to be in a position whereby we encourage that process.

Across the piece we are paying out £1.7 billion a year to fund temporary accommodation in this country, and people are in temporary accommodation literally for years—that cannot be acceptable.

We see the price of housing to buy escalating and rents escalating, too. We have to be radical in our thought processes as to how we deal with that. One of the biggest issues is the price of land in the first place. The cheapest land is agricultural land. Speculators move in and get options on that land. When planning permission is granted for alternative uses, the price of that land suddenly escalates. Those people then sell the land on and make money on those options. That cannot be acceptable. We see other challenges in retail or commercial land being transferred to the housing usage class, and there suddenly being a dramatic increase in the land value.

We have to take the land value out of the price of housing in the first place, to reduce the cost of people owning their own homes or, indeed, renting a home. At the same time, we force local authorities to sell their land to the highest bidder, and when they do so, the price of the housing built on that land comes back in the form of a huge housing benefit bill when people rent that housing. We have to close the gap and take the value of the land out of the equation completely.

Older people are now going to be renting well into their retirement—