My Lords, we are continuing to work towards our ambition of delivering 300,000 homes a year. This has always been a stretching ambition, and we have made strong progress: the three highest rates of annual supply in over 30 years have all come since 2018. We are aware that increasing supply even further will be made more difficult due to the economic challenges we face, but we are engaging with Homes England, developers and registered providers to understand the delivery challenges they face.
Has my noble friend seen today’s Times, which reports that new housebuilding is at its lowest level for 14 years, outside the Covid years? Has a much-needed recovery not been delayed by the concession on planning made in another place to a number of government Back-Benchers, which has already resulted in over 50 local authorities withdrawing their local plans with a view to submitting new plans with a lower number? If a Government make a manifesto commitment to build 300,000 homes, can they rely simply on the good will of local authorities to deliver it, or should we amend the levelling-up Bill to ensure that the country gets the homes it needs?
My Lords, I will start at the end. The proposed changes to the planning system set out in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill are designed to support more areas to get an up-to-date local plan in place, and therefore deliver more housing. The Government do not recognise the figure on withdrawn plans. Pauses and delays to plan-making are not something new, which is why we are determined, through our reforms, to reinvigorate local plan-making by simplifying it, speeding it up and strengthening the weight of democratically produced plans in this country. As for the article in the Times, yes, I have seen it and all I can say is that we still want to build more homes of the right type in the right places. We know that increasing housing supply will be made more difficult because of economic challenges, but we are working with the market very closely on the impacts, and to see what more the Government can do to provide support.
My Lords, we have a virtual contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours.
My Lords, could not a land commission be established to research what the impact would be of building on land acquired at agricultural prices, as proposed by Lisa Nandy, and sold for housing of a new form of ownership title, as I proposed in previous debates in the House? Only by that means can we guarantee the target of the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, thereby providing affordable housing to a new generation of young people who, without inherited wealth, may never be home owners.
The Government need to look at all opportunities for housebuilding but we have to look at brownfield land first, before agricultural land.
Are the Government looking at the possibility of expanding home ownership to groups of people who do not have that chance at the moment, thereby creating greater sociability out of poverty, because home ownership is one of the best ways of ending poverty?
I absolutely agree with the noble Lord, and this Government are committed to supporting home ownership and first-time buyers. Since spring 2010, more than 837,000 households have been helped to buy their own home through the government-backed schemes, including Help to Buy and Right to Buy. We have looked at stamp duty and made that much more positive for first-time buyers, and I believe we are spreading the opportunity to more people through our First Homes Scheme, giving a minimum of 30% discount to people who cannot otherwise afford to buy in their areas. That is what we are doing to support home ownership.
My Lords, I draw attention to my interests in the register. May I point out to my noble friend that Governments do not build houses—the private sector builds them? The private sector will build only when it thinks there is a market for them. The Bank of England’s crashing of interest rates in its failed policy to drive down inflation is not going to be the solution. My noble friend must remember that the only time this country has ever delivered 300,000 units a year was when councils were freed up to deliver 70,000 or 80,000 units. Her department has removed two of the historic barriers, but will she look at removing the third? We removed the cap on right-to-buy receipts being spent—councils can now spend 100%, which is brilliant—and the cap on councils borrowing against the existing value, but we still need to remove the cap on their ability to set locally determined discounts.
My noble friend is right: it takes a whole government, and many departments of government, to ensure that we have housing supply. DLUHC and the Housing Minister cannot do it on their own, so we need to work across government. As far as local authorities are concerned, my noble friend is right that we are removing the barriers and local authorities are now building houses.
It is in fact the turn of the Labour Benches.
My Lords, following on from the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, the recent proposal by the Labour Party to remove hope value would allow social landlords more easily to develop the affordable homes our country so badly needs. Fewer than 7,000 were built last year but we need 90,000 every year, so it is not surprising that these proposed reforms are supported by a wide range of organisations, including the National Housing Federation and Shelter. What assessment have the Government made of the impact of high land values on our ability to deliver new social housing?
The noble Baroness has been involved in some of the Committee sessions of the levelling-up Bill, and she will know that we are looking at hope value and land prices. The Government particularly recognise the need for homes for social rent. That is why social rent homes were brought into the scope of the affordable homes programme, for example, in 2018. As I say, the levelling-up White Paper committed to looking at ways to increase the supply of social rented homes.
My Lords, 40 years ago SME builders built 40% of all new homes. Today the figure is around 10%. The Minister might therefore understand my disappointment that the Government have not accepted my amendment to the levelling-up Bill that would assist SMEs to build on small sites. Will she offer assurances today that the new NPPF, which is being revised and will appear soon, I hope, will have something in it to give SMEs hope that they can get back to building at scale?
I am not going to get into what will and will not be in the NPPF at this time. What I can say about government support for SMEs is what we are doing at the moment. We have launched the Levelling Up Home Building Fund, which is providing £1.5 billion in development finance to SMEs and MMC builders and supporting them to deliver more homes. As the noble Baroness said, the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill will make changes to the planning system that will support SMEs by making the planning process faster and far more predictable.
My Lords, it is the turn of the Cross Benches.
My Lords, we have long had a housing crisis. Hundreds of thousands are homeless, millions are living in substandard and overcrowded accommodation, there are 2 million fewer social housing units than some decades ago and home ownership among the young has fallen dramatically. Does the Minister agree that we need to create many more than 300,000 new dwellings per year if we are to achieve a reasonable equilibrium in reasonable time in the UK’s housing market?
The Government’s view is that we need to deliver 300,000 houses per year by the middle of 2025. The noble Lord is right that we then need to look again at those numbers. The key to this is that local authorities look at the housing need in their areas and build to that housing need.