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Social Housing - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:47 pm on 31st January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Garel-Jones Lord Garel-Jones Conservative 12:47 pm, 31st January 2019

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, for introducing the Motion and above all congratulate him on the tone in which he introduced it. The challenge society faces in the social housing sector cannot be laid at the door of one political party but is the responsibility of the whole political class over the last 30 years. That point was eloquently made by the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, and my noble friend Lady Bloomfield. I also join other Members in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Osamor, on her maiden speech.

It seems that the Government are beginning to get their teeth into this challenge that society faces: first, by their commitment to commit £1.2 billion to homelessness reduction; secondly, by the undertaking to back local councils to build more social homes; and, above all, by removing the borrowing cap from them. They have also committed, I think, £2 billion to housing associations. I would be very interested, as I am sure that the whole House would be, if my noble friend the Minister, in summing up the debate, could give us some indication of whether these policies are moving in the right direction.

I will ask my noble friend two questions. First, I think he was quite active in something called the rough sleeping initiative in the early 1990s. Rough sleeping is one of those ghastly things that brings home to us all the challenge we face in social housing. Has his experience in that area given him ideas and initiatives that will make it rather more hopeful this time round that we will begin to tackle this very serious problem?

Lastly, when we compare not just the city of London but major cities right across this country with major cities in other countries, one contrast that comes home is the fact that in the United Kingdom we have rows and rows of terraced houses, whereas most major cities abroad have blocks of apartments. My understanding is that the cost of housing in a block of apartments is better than in individual terraced housing. If we were able to divert some of our efforts into that area, it would also relieve some of the pressure that the green belt is facing. I would be very interested to hear my noble friend’s comments on that.