Localism Bill — Report (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:27 pm on 5th September 2011.

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Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Labour 3:27 pm, 5th September 2011

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Whitty put forward a similar amendment in Committee on the last day before the Summer Recess. The Opposition did then, and do now, give this amendment our full support and hope that there will be a positive response from the Government today.

There is a crisis in housing across all sectors. We have huge numbers of people on the waiting lists for social housing. The private rented sector cannot meet the demand as the cost of renting in this sector is often out of the reach of many people. You have only to look in the windows of your local estate agents, nearly all of which have a section devoted to private renting, to see what rents are being demanded per month. I grew up in social housing and was lucky enough to buy my first property in my twenties, but the picture is very different now, with people often having to wait until their thirties or forties to get on the property ladder, as they save up the money required for the deposit needed to get on the first rung.

In her response to the debate in Committee the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said that the amendment was unnecessary as local housing authorities were already under statutory obligations. She quoted both Section 13 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and Section 87 of the Local Government Act 2003. That is fine as far as it goes, and noble Lords will see that my noble friend Lord Whitty draws in on those two provisions in proposed subsection (1) of his amendment in relation to social housing and homelessness. It goes on to require all housing authorities to draw up an analysis of housing supply and demand across all forms of tenure in their areas and neighbouring areas as far as is relevant. They must look at housing trends across all sectors, take stock of house prices and rents, understand what has been built and provided locally, and know the number and type of empty properties: for example, is this an area where there are a number of second homes, and what are the demographic and employment trends in the area? All this must be brought together to enable an authority to plan, make informed decisions and act to build communities and to enable areas to grow and prosper.

This is a sensible proposal and I hope that the Government have reflected on it over the summer. If they are not prepared to accept the amendment, that is regrettable, and I hope that the Minister will be able to tell the House in detail why not. If my noble friend is not satisfied, he may wish to test the opinion of the House.