Housing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:07 pm on 9th April 2019.

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Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton Conservative, Truro and Falmouth 6:07 pm, 9th April 2019

This Minister does get it; he works day and night to ensure that he delivers the homes that the nation needs. He knows that I am a champion of community-led housing, and I was delighted that the Government responded so positively to the campaigning of myself and colleagues for the establishment of the community housing fund. It was first announced in the 2016 Budget with a commitment to invest £300 million over five years, with the money coming from the proceeds of extra stamp duty on second home sales. Money was allocated to 148 local authorities, roughly in proportion to the number of second homes and affordability issues.

I believe that the fund will transform the community-led housing sector. It is expected to deliver 10,000 homes by 2021. However, the fund ends with the end of the current spending period. With more than 3,500 homes now in the pipeline, it is essential that the fund is extended to the next spending review period so that those homes can be delivered. Because of the delay in the spending review, there will now be a significant period of uncertainty for groups. Money must be spent by March 2020, so few bids will come forward from this point on. The spending review will not conclude until the autumn statement, at the earliest, and there could be further delay and indecision following that. So groups, including those in Cornwall, face an invidious choice. Should they continue to work on their projects and hope that funding will come through, or should they wait and potentially stall and collapse?

In the social housing Green Paper, the Government acknowledged that housing associations could deliver more if they were given more time. That is more true for this sector than for any other. To illustrate my point, the Cornwall Community Land Trust, a well-respected enabler of community-led housing, estimates that the discontinuance of the community housing fund could put up to 230 community-led homes in jeopardy.

I am sure we all agree that we need to deliver more genuinely affordable homes for local people in beautiful coastal communities where there are very high house prices, such as those in Cornwall, where it is so attractive for people to buy second homes. We need those affordable homes to sustain communities for generations to come, so I urge the Minister, who I know wants to ensure that my constituents and people all over the country have high-quality homes to live in, to make an urgent statement about the continuity of the much-supported and much-needed community housing fund.