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Community Housing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:22 pm on 12th March 2020.

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Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 5:22 pm, 12th March 2020

My right hon. Friend is an aficionado of beauty. I know he served with distinction on the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, and we look forward to bringing forward many of that commission’s proposals.

As I was saying, we recognise that community-led housing offers a wide range of benefits beyond just meeting housing needs. It supports the SME sector, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk made clear, and it helps drive up standards of design and energy efficiency, as my right hon. Friend Sir John Hayes mentioned. It sets a benchmark for high-quality new housing that enhances the built environment and creates a strong sense of place. It embraces modern methods of construction, and it helps sustain local communities and local economies, allowing young people to stay in the areas in which they grew up.

The Government recognise that there is huge potential for growth in community-led housing here in the United Kingdom. That is why we announced the community housing fund, making £60 million per annum available over four years to kickstart and drive the growth of the sector. In 2018, a dedicated grant-funding programme was launched by Homes England, the Government’s housing delivery agency. We have also made available £38 million to the Greater London Authority to support the sector in London. Capital grants have been available to schemes that have reached the point where they can start building.

This growth has been particularly rapid since the community housing fund delivery programme was launched in 2018, with 135 CLTs either being formed or becoming legally incorporated. We have provided a £6 million grant to Community Led Homes, a consortium of the leading stakeholders, to train an England-wide team of advisers who can help guide community groups through the often daunting and complicated process of taking a house building project forward. The advisers will help build and facilitate the market for community-led housing in the years to come.

As my hon. Friend has said, the Homes England programme was closed to new applicants towards the end of last year. That is because, as for most Government programmes, funding for the community housing fund is not available to the Department beyond the end of the current financial year, although different constraints apply to the GLA, where the funding remains available until 2022-23. I completely understand his frustrations, and let me say to him that I am very sympathetic to the points he has made. I look forward to having further conversations with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer as we approach the conclusion of the main estimates and, beyond that and for future years, the comprehensive spending review.