The Government care deeply about building more homes and delivered more than 243,000 last year, the highest level for more than 30 years. We have gone to great lengths to keep the whole industry open during the pandemic, sustaining hundreds of thousands of people’s jobs and livelihoods, while continuing to stimulate the market through our stamp duty cut. Covid will impact starts significantly, so we are taking steps to sustain activity, including delivering up to 180,000 homes through our £12 billion investment in affordable homes, the biggest investment of its kind for a decade.
There are about 100 small rural villages in my Gainsborough constituency, and I doubt there has been any building of social housing in any of them over the past 40 years. It is virtually impossible for young couples, who often do precisely the jobs we want in rural areas, to buy into villages. We do not want our English villages filled with people like me; we want young people. [Interruption.] That is the truth. Will the Secretary of State do a massive campaign, like the Macmillan campaign at the beginning of the 1950s, to build social housing and rent to buy in our rural villages in England?
Like my right hon. Friend, I want to see more homes of all kinds built in all parts of the country, and I want to deliver as many social and affordable homes as we possibly can. I was delighted that the Chancellor gave us the funding for the £12 billion affordable homes programme, which as I say is the largest for a decade. It has a target to deliver 10% of those homes in rural areas, so it should support his community in Lincolnshire.
To answer the broader question, rural areas need to consider how they can bring forward more land in the plan-making process in their neighbourhood plans for homes of all kinds. The current planning system permits local communities to choose the type of homes that they want, so when they allocate sites, they can say that they should be affordable homes, through which they can support the next generation. I do not think any village in this country should be deemed to be set in aspic. Organic growth has happened throughout the generations and can and should happen in the future.
My constituents particularly welcome my right hon. Friend’s recent announcements in respect of improving the circumstances of leaseholders and ensuring that overly tall buildings are not permitted to blight local neighbourhoods. When can we expect to see the benefit of those measures being implemented?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work he has done in this area, along with a number of his colleagues representing London constituencies. I have corresponded with the Mayor of London, directing him that in the forthcoming London plan there now be a tall buildings policy for London, which will ensure that every borough can determine if and where tall buildings should be built. We have no objection to tall buildings. London needs more housing, and that includes good-quality tall buildings, but it is fair for communities to decide where that should be focused. It may be in areas where there are existing clusters of tall buildings, such as Nine Elms or Canary Wharf, or it might be around transport infrastructure in other parts of the city, but we should be able to protect the character and feel of outer London and those parts of the suburbs that my hon. Friend represents, which deserve that added level of protection.
Hard-working young people saving up for their own home have been let down by successive Tory Governments, and this Government are missing their own target of increasing to 300,000 the number of homes built per year by the mid-2020s. The stamp duty holiday pushed prices out of reach of first-time buyers, and the first homes scheme built literally no homes. So what does the Secretary of State say to the young people whose dream of home ownership he has so badly let down?
Let us remember that the last Labour Government left house building in this country at its lowest ever level in peacetime—the lowest since the 1920s. The statistics that we published at the end of last year show that this Government are building more homes than any Government has built for almost 40 years, and were it not for covid, we would have built more homes than any Government since that in which Harold Macmillan was Housing Secretary many years ago.
We will keep on building more homes. We will keep on investing in homes through the affordable homes programme and more investment in brownfield land, and we will keep on bringing forward ambitious planning reforms to free up the planning system, to support small builders and entrepreneurs and to create and sustain jobs for the brickies, the plumbers and the self-employed people the length and breadth of the country who need a Conservative Government to be on their side. I would respectfully ask the hon. Lady to back us. She and her colleagues have voted against every single one of those measures since the pandemic. People across this country need those measures to get this country building and support jobs.