Housing and Planning Bill - Report (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 25th April 2016.

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Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Shadow Spokesperson (Housing), Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 5:30 pm, 25th April 2016

My noble friend Lady Royall of Blaisdon and other noble Lords have made a compelling case for contributions to affordable housing from small-scale developments. As my noble friend said, rural communities are not just small-scale versions of urban areas; they are quite different. They have their own strengths and challenges that have to be met. We have to understand that and enable outcomes to be delivered that help rural areas to prosper.

Housing that is affordable is one of the greatest challenges we face. The proportion of homes used only at weekends or as holiday accommodation risks making our villages and small communities unsustainable. Housing has to be available in various tenures for people who want to live and work locally and keep communities alive: for teachers to run the village school; for people to run rural post offices, shops and pubs; for health workers to keep community health facilities open and for farmworkers to sustain the rural economy. Not all such people will be able to afford to buy their own home, so the provision of social housing is a must to keep communities alive. We have heard that only 8% of housing in rural areas is owned by housing associations and local authorities. My noble friend’s amendment would give a power to local authorities to require, where they decide they want to, an affordable housing contribution in cash or in kind, determined by the requirements of the local area. That is an excellent idea. It has localism at its heart and the Government should support it.

The amendment defines what is meant by a “rural area” and the parameters of the policy. I hope the Minister will have some positive words to say, as alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Best. However, if my noble friend is not satisfied, I hope she will test the opinion of the House, and I am sure that she will have support on these and other Benches. I hope that that will not be necessary today, that discussions can continue and that we can come back to this matter at Third Reading.