Covid-19: Economy - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:54 pm on 4th June 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Labour 1:54 pm, 4th June 2020

My Lords, the Covid pandemic has revealed some crucial economic realities that have been ignored for too long. One of those is the inability of the construction industry to respond quickly when demand slumps. Yet construction, and in particular housebuilding, could be a vital engine of economic recovery from this crisis.

Home ownership is something that the Government have championed and it is what most people aspire to, but undoubtedly, at least in the short term, we face a big rise in unemployment and an imminent recession. It is unlikely that many people will be able to afford to buy a home. We need a massive increase in affordable housebuilding, which can deliver a fast-acting, broad- based economic and social stimulus. We know from past economic downturns that investment in social housebuilding is counter-cyclical, which means that government investment can buy a lot of development. This in turn will provide ongoing work for the construction sector and SMEs in difficult times.

The pandemic has increased the challenges we face in housing. This is not just in the nationwide homelessness that the Government have taken initial steps to redress, but in the very areas where they hope to encourage more equal access to prosperity. Significant investment in social housing is key: we must build more homes. For such a programme, long-term certainty is required. If the Government have the vision to commit to a 10-year affordable housing fund, they could secure a long-term and sustainable economic recovery. Housing associations are ambitious to play their part in this recovery. A longer-term investment programme would give them the stability and confidence to deliver a new generation of high-quality, accessible and greener affordable homes to rent and to buy while rebuilding our economy. Will the Minister commit to doing this in this year’s spending review?