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Social Housing - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:05 pm on 31st January 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Labour 12:05 pm, 31st January 2019

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Whitty on securing this debate and I look forward to the maiden speech of my noble friend Lady Osamor. I declare an interest as the chair of the National Housing Federation.

I too want to refer to Shelter. Its social housing commission—my noble friend Lady Lawrence was a commissioner—recently set out graphically the damning consequences of poor provision of social housing, including increased homelessness. This is clearly a crisis and the true cost is staggering. The Government spend billions of pounds a year on housing benefit, much of it going to private landlords. Councils are spending hundreds of millions on housing homeless families. In stark terms, the housing crisis costs lives. Recently a homeless man died just outside this building.

The National Housing Federation and Crisis have shown that, to meet demand, we need to build 340,000 homes a year, but numbers alone will not solve this. The type of tenure is vital to tackling the root of the problem. We need to build 145,000 affordable homes a year and 90,000 must be for social rent. Last year, we built just 42,000 affordable homes. There are no quick fixes. We need a long-term, joined-up plan to build vastly more homes for social rent.

I want to use my three minutes to identify briefly some key issues and ask the Minister some questions. Housing associations will play their part as the largest providers of social homes, and the Government too have made a commitment to build 300,000 homes. How many of them will be genuinely affordable? How much investment has the Treasury calculated will be needed? Each area faces its own unique challenges, which require local solutions. In some places regeneration is needed, not new build. Does the Minister agree that different solutions are required, including investment for regeneration? Partnerships with local authorities are vital. The removal of the housing revenue account cap should empower local authorities and housing associations to work together to tackle the crisis. However, barriers remain. Will the Government reform the Land Compensation Act 1961 so that a fairer proportion of the uplift in land value can be shared with the local community, including for affordable homes? Will the Minister commit to delivering 50% of affordable housing across public sector land?

The freezing of working-age benefits, the design of universal credit, the spare room subsidy and changes in the way benefits are paid have all made life harder for many tenants. They have certainly contributed to, if not driven, the huge rise in homelessness. I am pleased that the Government have promised to provide impact assessments in their rough sleeping strategy. Can the Minister tell the House what data he and/or DWP have on the impact of benefit changes on homelessness?

The Government have taken positive steps to invest more in social housing, but to provide a sustainable solution they must act on longer term funding for genuinely affordable homes and on access to land. My final question therefore is: will the Minster commit to doing so in the upcoming spending review?