Housing: Affordability — Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:45 pm on 19th October 2009.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Labour 2:45 pm, 19th October 2009

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to increase housebuilding to meet demand for affordable houses.

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government), Department for Communities and Local Government, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government), Department for Work and Pensions, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Communities and Local Government) (also in Department for Work and Pensions), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions) (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government)

My Lords, on 29 June, as part of Building Britain's Future, the Prime Minister announced the housing pledge. Over this year and next we will be investing a further £1.5 billion to build an extra 20,000 new affordable homes for rent and low-cost sale, of which over 13,000 will be for social rent. This will enable us to deliver 55,500 affordable homes this year and up to 56,400 in 2010-11.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Labour

I thank my noble friend for that reply. Would he agree that the dramatic drop in mortgage lending and the sharp decline in new housebuilding well illustrate that the market is failing in this sector? Would he further agree, therefore, that it is incumbent on government to meet the growing demand from those in housing need by investing further in housebuilding, construction training and new models of social ownership?

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government), Department for Communities and Local Government, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government), Department for Work and Pensions, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Communities and Local Government) (also in Department for Work and Pensions), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions) (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government)

My Lords, I very much agree with my noble friend; indeed, the very concept of affordable housing demonstrates that the needs of some cannot be met by the market. We have, as I have explained, taken action in the short term through the housing pledge—in particular, the kick-start programme to unlock stalled sites—but we recognise that, in the long term, there will be a continuing need for housing. We need to ensure sufficient land for development, a strong housebuilding sector and an increased long-term supply of affordable housing. Above all, we need strong and active government action.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

Can the Minister assure me that, included among those houses to which he referred, there will be rent-to-buy properties as another form of social housing? That means that those people wishing to be home owners but unable to afford to be so will, after a period of renting, have the opportunity to buy their home.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Spokesperson for Communities and Local Government

My Lords, I am sure that the Minister will agree that bringing existing homes up to standard is an important part of the programme of providing housing. He will be aware of the challenge by a number of councils of all political persuasions against the shift out of the decent homes value-for-money budget. Does this not mean that council tenants will be subsidising the programme to a fairly considerable degree? Frankly, that is a rather odd component.

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government), Department for Communities and Local Government, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government), Department for Work and Pensions, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Communities and Local Government) (also in Department for Work and Pensions), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions) (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government)

My Lords, as I understand it, the challenges, coming from three Tory councils and one Lib Dem council, are about the deferral of part of the funding that was originally allocated. Let me remind noble Lords that, in 1997, we inherited a massive £19 billion backlog on social housing repairs, with more than 2 million homes failing basic decency standards and too many of society's most vulnerable on the streets or in bed-and-breakfast accommodation. We have made massive improvements since then, radically transforming people's homes through 700,000 new kitchens, 525,000 new bathrooms and the rewiring of 740,000 council homes. This has been a success for the decent homes policy, which did not exist before.

Photo of Lord Best Lord Best Crossbench

My Lords, I agree entirely with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, that we need lots more affordable homes for the next generation. Does the Minister agree that a good way of producing those extra homes is by providing the retirement housing to tempt people out of their three-bedroom, underoccupied houses in the suburbs? Those are the homes with gardens that we are not building any more, but which could be released if only we had a good enough offer for older people, who need something more manageable and less expensive to heat and maintain. That would thereby release the homes that young families so badly need.

Photo of The Bishop of Leicester The Bishop of Leicester Bishop

My Lords, is the Minister aware of the important role that the churches play in the partnerships needed to deliver affordable housing, particularly in the rural areas, as outlined in the significant Faith inAffordable Housing report? Will he help to facilitate these partnerships by ensuring that funding is sustained for the rural housing enablers?

J

Faith in Affordable Housing report: http://www.housingjustice.org.uk/FIAH/index.htm

Submitted by Jim Vine

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government), Department for Communities and Local Government, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government), Department for Work and Pensions, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Communities and Local Government) (also in Department for Work and Pensions), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions) (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government)

My Lords, I recognise the important role that faith communities can play. Over many areas of policy, faith communities can reach people that Governments sometimes cannot, so those partnerships are valued. As for funding for affordable rural housing, the right reverend Prelate may be aware that our target was flexed, as we are now getting less output for our grant because of the falling away of Section 106 moneys. Subject to that, we need to continue to work together to ensure that we can deliver affordable rural housing.

Photo of Lord Howarth of Newport Lord Howarth of Newport Labour

My Lords, while fully endorsing the Government's commitment to build more social housing, may I ask my noble friend whether he accepts that too often in the past quality in publicly funded housing has been traded for quantity? What practical steps are being taken by the Government, the Homes and Communities Agency and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment to ensure that this new affordable housing will be adaptable, sustainable and pleasing to the eye?

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government), Department for Communities and Local Government, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government), Department for Work and Pensions, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Communities and Local Government) (also in Department for Work and Pensions), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions) (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government)

My Lords, my noble friend raises a very important point. Indeed, it follows on from the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Best, about the design of accommodation. It is important that it is good quality. I can remember the days of Parker Morris standards. I hope that we can get back to that and ensure that we sustain good design standards and create spaces in which people are happy to live, particularly older people, who will progressively spend more time in their accommodation than the younger population.

Photo of Earl Cathcart Earl Cathcart - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Scotland), Shadow Minister, - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government and Scotland), Shadow Minister, - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Communities and Local Government), Shadow Minister

My Lords, given that the official waiting list is now around 2 million—incidentally, the National Housing Federation puts the figure needing homes at 4 million and rising—can the Minister say how many of the 750,000 empty homes are now occupied? Secondly, do the Government intend to build more affordable homes for families rather than concentrating on flats, which currently account for 50 per cent of the new build?

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government), Department for Communities and Local Government, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government), Department for Work and Pensions, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Communities and Local Government) (also in Department for Work and Pensions), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions) (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government)

My Lords, the nature of affordable homes is very much driven by the planning process, local development frameworks and local authorities' input to local needs. I agree that that should cover the whole range of requirements, from families to smaller households. We have made progress in reducing the overall number of empty properties, which has fallen by 9 per cent since 1997.