House building is a priority for this Government. We have announced £10 billion-worth of investment in the housing supply since the start of this Parliament, and ultimately, our interventions are due to unlock over 1 million new homes. We are also investing £11.5 billion in the latest affordable homes programme, to provide tens of thousands of new homes across the country.
As my question concerns Wolverhampton, with your permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to Councillor Ian Brookfield, the leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, who sadly passed away last week, aged only 57. Ian worked with many Ministers and the Secretary of State when the Ministry’s second headquarters moved to the city of Wolverhampton. He will be greatly missed by many people.
The Government have made a series of big investments in Wolverhampton, and that has positioned it as the centre of the home building industry. That includes millions of pounds for the National Brownfield Institute, the city learning quarter, and the Modern Methods of Construction taskforce. Will my hon. Friend the Minister support my campaign for an investment zone in Wolverhampton North East, stretching from Springfield brewery to the science park? That would help attract businesses to Wolverhampton, where they could capitalise on the expertise that our city now has in home building technology, and attract high-quality jobs to my constituency.
I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute, on my behalf and on behalf of all Ministers in the Department, to Councillor Ian Brookfield.
I thank my hon. Friend very much for her question. She is an absolutely superb advocate for her constituents and the city of Wolverhampton. I am pleased to tell her that the investment zone programme is under way; a shortlist of eight places in England selected for inclusion in the programme was announced in the spring Budget, and the west midlands is one of them. We are co-developing proposals, and we will look very carefully at her proposal, for the reasons that she set out.
I draw my hon. Friend the Minister’s attention to the uncertain future of the housing development in Long Eaton in my constituency. It has been at a standstill since the termination of the house builder’s contract 10 months ago. What further support is available to encourage the site owner to complete the more than 100 homes planned for the site, so that the development is not left to deteriorate beyond repair?
I am of course concerned to hear about the situation that my hon. Friend highlights, and I would be pleased to discuss it with her in more detail, if that would be helpful. More generally, we are introducing a range of measures to increase transparency about build-out, to ensure that when development proposals are brought forward, the development actually gets built.
Labour-run Kirklees Council is taking in millions of pounds from housing developers through the section 106 levy, but local people are losing confidence in the system, as they just do not see the money being spent on local schools, local roads or local health services. Does the Minister agree that developer contributions, which are given to improve local infrastructure that is affected by major housing developments, should be spent on just that?
My hon. Friend highlights a most unsatisfactory state of affairs from Labour-run Kirklees Council. We are introducing a new infrastructure levy that will bring much-needed transparency. Local authorities, including Kirklees, should be spending that precious money on the infrastructure needed for local people.
With the growth in development of new housing across my constituency, we must ensure that adequate provisions are in place to meet the essential needs of residents, such as at the Bramshall Meadows development, where residents are waiting for the play space they were promised, and at Branston Locks, where new healthcare services are needed to support that development. Can the Minister provide an update on what is being done to guarantee the successful and timely integration of these vital facilities in new housing developments?
My hon. Friend highlights well on behalf of her constituents the vital and pressing need for the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, which includes measures to tackle exactly the issues she has highlighted. It will introduce a new infrastructure levy, which will reform the system of developer contributions, bringing certainty and transparency over the infrastructure needed to be delivered alongside development.
To address the housing crisis, we need to be building more homes for social rent, and planning departments must be properly resourced in personnel and funding. Will my hon. Friend set out the steps she is taking to address those two specific issues?
My hon. Friend speaks with considerable expertise on these matters. We know that many local planning authorities are facing capacity and capability challenges, which is why we have developed a programme of support, working with partners across the planning sector, to put more skills and capacity into planning authorities. Our levelling up White Paper is committed to increasing the supply of social rented homes across the country.
Lib Dem-run Eastleigh Borough Council, which is developing 2,500 homes on Horton Heath, last week passed a planning amendment to recklessly remove all affordable housing obligations, despite its being the developer of the site. Will my hon. Friend condemn that cynical move and assure me that no Homes England money will be used to backfill the gap?
I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting the reckless behaviour of his Liberal Democrat-run council. I completely agree that it is a disgraceful state of affairs. The council should be using that funding secured to deliver the affordable housing that his residents rightly need and deserve. As he suggested, Homes England will definitely not be contributing to backfilling that need.
I call the Chair of the Select Committee.
I do not doubt the Minister’s good intentions on house building, but does she accept that, according to her own Department’s figures, housing starts fell by 12% year on year in the first three months of this year? That is down to a figure of just more than 37,000 starts, which is half the figure needed to hit 300,000 homes a year. On that basis, does she conclude like me that not merely is her policy not succeeding in hitting the housing targets, but it is considerably contributing to their failure?
The hon. Gentleman brings his considerable knowledge to this matter, but I will take no lectures from him and the Labour party on house building. This Government delivered 242,000 houses in 2019-20—that is the highest level for more than 30 years, including the entire time that the Labour party was in government.
We do not just need to build affordable homes; we also need to build high-quality homes that are fit for the future and climate-resilient. In the past six years, the average cost of repairing a home from flood damage has been £60,000 a property, and Aviva calculates that one in four homes is now at risk of flooding. Will the Government ensure that their proposed national planning policy framework will finally prevent unprotected homes from being built in flood risk areas?
The hon. Lady raises an important issue. The consultation on the NPPF has been well subscribed. We are analysing the responses now, but I am sure we will be able to say more in due course.
In Westmorland and Lonsdale, average house prices are 12 times average household incomes. The danger we have is that when we see houses developed, we are meeting demand, but not need. Should the Government not give us far greater planning controls, so that we can ensure that we do not see 100 homes built that are a waste of bricks going into the second home market? Instead, we should ensure that they are affordable homes, socially rented for local families.
Local authorities have a huge amount of freedom. They have been given the tools by the Government through legislation, through developer contribution powers and through Homes England grants to deliver affordable homes. The hon. Member will also know about the wider work we are doing on second homes to enable local authorities to raise council tax. I hope he can see that the direction of travel will help alleviate some of the pressures he has highlighted.
The Government are notoriously bad at disposing of public land—I need only look at NHS Property Services and the seven-year wait on the Bootham Park hospital site, and at Ministry of Defence land—so will the Minister look at how that can be co-ordinated and handed over to Homes England so that we can get building the housing that is desperately needed in places such as York?
The hon. Lady will be pleased to hear that this is a priority for us. I take issue slightly with her comment that we have a poor record of disposing of public land. Often, that public land is needed by hospitals and the MOD. So we are working closely and looking at where such land can be brought forward for housing. If it can, we absolutely will be doing that.
Among the SNP failures that the Secretary of State chose not to mention is the fact that, since the SNP came to government in 2007, we have been building new council and social-rented houses at nine times the rate of any Government covering England. Does the Minister accept that if successive Labour and Tory Governments had followed the SNP’s example in Scotland, the housing crisis in England would be far less than it currently is?
I thank the Minister very much for her responses. One of the key issues is for urgent planning decisions to be made. The Minister has a keen interest in Northern Ireland, where the population has risen by about 100,000 up to 1.9 million. One thing that needs to be done is on infrastructure decisions, which need to be made here nationally, not regionally. What discussions has she had with the Northern Ireland Assembly to ensure that those decisions can be made to the benefit of all of us in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
Only if the Assembly sits.
I thank the hon. Gentleman so much. He is an active participant in all the debates we have on these issues. I continue to work closely with him and his colleagues in Northern Ireland, because we can work together and learn lessons from each other.
Do the Government realise how absurd all of this sounds? Their own flagship Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, which is currently making its way through the House of Lords, has measures in it to block new homes from being built, and yet the Minister stands here berating councils for getting in the way. All of this is happening because Conservative Back Benchers have more control of housing policy than their Government. So when the local Conservative MP in Cambridge says that his latest scheme “will not happen”, he is probably right, is he not?
I do not quite know how to give that a serious response. I have just set out in huge detail all the work backed by public funding—taxpayers’ money—going into delivering the houses that people need up and down the country. As far as I can see, the only people blocking housing development are those such as the hon. Lady, who is objecting to developments in her own constituency.
It is literally in the Government’s own Bill—they are trying to block new houses from being built. They have had 17 housing Ministers and three planning overhauls, and house building is at its lowest level for a generation.
The Secretary of State wants to talk now—why did he not take the question? I suspect it is because he has again run into so much opposition from his Back Benchers about a story briefed only yesterday that he has had to abandon it. One hundred small and medium-sized house builders have been protesting to Downing Street and mortgages have gone through the roof. It really does take some brass neck to present that as anything other than an appalling record.
I have in my hand an analysis that shows that all this chaos will cost the economy £44 billion. Are the Government the only people left in Britain who cannot admit that the housing crisis, the mortgage crisis, the cost of living crisis and the economic crisis have one cause: Tory government?
That was a flight of fantasy with several hundred questions. I am happy to engage with the hon. Lady on the detail of the clauses in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, but I am proud of the Government’s record in bringing forward levelling-up across the whole country, with house building backed by billions of pounds of public funding and taxpayers’ money. As I said in answer to Mr Betts, our house building record is greater than that of her party for the entire time they were in government.