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Planning for the Future

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 12th March 2020.

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Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government 11:30 am, 12th March 2020

We built more homes in this country last year—240,000 homes—than were built in any of the last 30 years. The right hon. Gentleman left house building in this country at the lowest level since the 1920s when he was the Housing Secretary. Today, it is at the highest level for 32 years. We have built more affordable homes in this country on average since 2010 under a Conservative Government than under the last Labour Government. We built more council houses in this country in one year last year than in the 13 years of the last Labour Government combined. In Wales, which Labour has control of, how many council houses were built last year? Fifty seven. How many the year before? Eighty. How many in the three years before that? Zero, so I will take no lectures from him on our record.

This was a great Budget for housing. We saw the largest investment for 10 years in affordable housing—over £12 billion. We saw further investment in infrastructure to unlock homes in all parts of the country and the commitment to bring forward a new larger single housing infrastructure fund later this year. As he rightly pointed out, we saw a further £1 billion investment in building safety, which is an incredibly important step forward to give safety, security and confidence to leaseholders who are feeling concerned in their homes. Together, this package will help us to lay the foundations for the housing reforms that we intend to introduce during this Parliament and which the White Paper that I will publish later this year will take forward at pace.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me a few questions, including about the affordable homes programme. This has been welcomed by everybody in the sector, including Kate Henderson, who leads for housing federations—she warmly welcomed this. The housing and homelessness charities welcomed the announcements that we made as a very significant step forward in investing in this area.

We have also announced more money for brownfield land, so this is not about the ruination of the countryside or needless urban sprawl. It is about getting more homes in the places where they are most needed and backing ambitious councils and Mayors such as Andy Street in the west midlands, who want to get going and unlock the parcels of brownfield land.

The building safety fund will be open as soon as possible. We want to work with leaseholders who are in properties over 18 metres and ensure that they can access the funding.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about the publication of the Building Research Establishment’s research. That will happen in the coming weeks, but the research is already available; it is simply that we have not consolidated and published the final findings. We do not expect those findings to be any different from the ones that are already in the public domain.

Finally, the right hon. Gentleman asked about legislation, as he did the other day, and he did not listen to the answer then. We will bring forward our fire safety legislation in the coming months, and I hope, from what he said today, that he intends to support it. That will give the powers to fire and rescue services across the country to do exactly what he wishes.