New Clause 20 - Assessment of the impact of building safety issues on social housing sector homebuilding

Building Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 26th October 2021.

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“(1) Within one year of the day on which this Act is passed the Secretary of State must carry out and publish a review of the impact of building safety issues on properties provided by registered providers of social housing.

(2) The review must consider in particular—

(a) current and future housebuilding,

(b) current maintenance of homes provided by registered providers of social housing, and

(c) homelessness.

(3) The review must in particular consider the impact of building safety issues on social housing provider finances, including the amount of funding provided to registered providers of social housing to remediate buildings with combustible cladding and the advice given by his Department on building safety since 14 July 2017, on—

(a) the proportion of registered provider of social housing funds that was previously allocated to social homebuilding or the maintenance or improvement of current social housing which has instead been allocated to building safety work, and

(b) projections of future housebuilding by registered providers of social housing in comparison with Government housebuilding targets and national homelessness rates.

(4) The review must make any recommendations for Government action necessary to ensure–—

(a) homebuilding targets are reached,

(b) current housing provided by registered providers of social housing is maintained and improved, and

(c) any rise in homelessness is prevented.”—

This new clause would require the Government to publish an assessment of the effect of building safety requirements on the maintenance of current homes and building of future homes by registered providers of social housing, and rates of homelessness.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause would ensure that the Government published an assessment of the impact of building safety costs on registered providers of social housing. The National Housing Federation last week announced that one in 10 affordable homes planned by housing associations will no longer be built, because of the costs of making buildings safe. The impact of the Government’s decision to effectively lock out social landlords from funding, because costs are less likely to fall on the shoulders of leaseholders, is clear in the report: 12,900 out of 116,777 new affordable homes will be cut from plans in order to prioritise spending on building safety. Earlier this year, the G15 group stated that their bill would be £3.6 billion by 2036. Nationally, housing associations stated last year that it would cost £10 billion to make all homes safe from fire risk over the next 10 years. The National Housing Federation also announced last week that social rent homes would be the hardest hit, because they build the majority of that tenure within their own income envelope rather than with Government grants.

I need hardly remind the Minister that the country managed to build only 6,644 homes for social rent in 2019 and 2020, but lost 24,120 from the stock, resulting in a net loss of 17,476 homes for social rent. With one in 10 households stuck on waiting lists for more than five years to get a home, we absolutely cannot afford to be losing more social homes. We must build them at scale.

I was glad to hear that the new Secretary of State appears to agree with me and so I hope that addressing this aspect of the building safety crisis can form part of the thinking in this respect. It is not just home building itself that will be impacted. The 61 housing associations surveyed by the National Housing Federation said that they would have to divert £730 million away from routine maintenance such as upgrading kitchens or bathrooms or doing other essential safety work. Half a million social homes are considered to be non-decent—as we have seen in the coverage on ITV. Shockingly, 40% of those are classed as unfit for human habitation. These homes may have mould or damp, rodent issues, or physical damage.

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government) (Planning)

My hon. Friend is giving an excellent description of the current state of much social rent housing. That is partly because the landlords—councils and housing associations—have not had adequate funding to bring them up to scratch, and the building safety crisis in relation to social rent homes is adding to that. The Minister may want to attack the Labour Government, because that is what Conservative Governments frequently do, but does my hon. Friend agree that, while the Labour Government brought 1 million social rent homes up to standard 20 years ago, such a programme needs to happen again now and this crisis is only making that pressure worse?

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I concur with my hon. Friend. When I was a councillor in the Manchester area, I saw the results of that very standards programme. But we cannot excuse landlords; it is on their shoulders to ensure that the types of horrific cases that we have seen are sorted quickly. We cannot afford to allow money to be taken away from tackling these issues. Analysis has shown that housing associations have paid six times as much as developers to get buildings fixed. Given the huge profits that have been made in the private sector, it is a scandal that it is not doing more to pay to fix faults, many of which it created.

The first amendment that Labour tabled in the Committee centred on the impact of climate change on building safety. Building safety considerations are competing with building green houses. The Government have announced funding, but it will take much more to ensure that social homes are warm and energy efficient. With housing accounting for 14% of our emissions, we must make that a priority.

The new clause would ensure that the Government looked at the impact of this crisis on future levels of house building in the UK by social home providers, on homelessness and on the maintenance of social homes. It would require them to make recommendations for action necessary to ensure that building safety issues do not inhibit our ability to reach the house-building targets, and that current provision of housing is maintained and improved.

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

I am grateful again to the hon. Gentleman for raising an important matter. I do not believe that his amendment is necessary because a great deal of the information that he seeks about registered providers’ finances, their house building and the decency of their properties is already published. For example, the global accounts published annually by the regulator of social housing contain detailed financial information about individual private registered providers of social housing that own or manage 1,000 or more homes. That includes how much they invest in new homes and in maintaining their existing properties. A summary of those providers’ financial forecasts is typically published alongside the global accounts that set out their investment and development plans for the next five years.

The most recent global accounts published earlier this year reported increased spending by private registered providers on repairs and maintenance in 2019-20. They also showed a 13% increase in investment in new housing supply compared to the previous year, driven by greater spending on delivering new social homes for rent. That speaks volumes about how private registered landlords are continuing to invest in both new and existing homes, despite challenging circumstances. The hon. Member for Weaver Vale will know—we have debated it in the Chamber and elsewhere on a number of occasions—that the new affordable homes programme is worth more than £12 billion. It is the largest cash injection into affordable housing in a 15-year cycle. Of that, £8 billion has already been allocated and has been taken up by registered providers who are determined to build the homes that we require and that the hon. Gentleman has asked for.

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Residents in my constituency and across the country would not accept that definition of affordable homes: the Government have vandalised that definition over a number of years. How many homes were built for social rent last year?

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) 3:15 pm, 26th October 2021

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for asking that question. Since 2010, we have built nearly 150,000 homes for social rent, and 32,000 will be built in the new affordable homes cycle, market conditions permitting. That is double the number that were built under the current mechanism. We are building more social homes through the affordable homes programme. We are allowing councils to build homes, if they wish, by reducing the borrowing cap on the housing revenue account. We have created a hub in Homes England to help local authorities that do not have the wherewithal or the experience to build social homes to get that experience so that they can build those homes.

We are building affordable homes of a variety of types and tenures and we will continue to do that, market conditions permitting. We are also investing a significant amount of public funds in retrofitting properties in the social sector that absolutely need it to bring them up to the required standard. The heat and building strategy was announced just a few days ago. Before that, the social housing decarbonisation fund was making available £3.8 billion to decarbonise social properties to ensure that they are more energy efficient. The announcement that the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy made a few days ago will ensure that further hundreds of millions of pounds are made available for such things as home improvement grants. That is why we can say that we are dealing with this challenging issue and that the new clause is therefore unnecessary.

The quarterly survey produced by the regulator of social housing shows that private registered providers forecast £70.5 billion of investment in the development and acquisition of housing properties in 2021-22. That exceeds the amount in the 12-month forecast reported by the quarterly survey in the year before the pandemic.

I hope that the hon. Member for Weaver Vale will see that we are making significant investment, which will ensure that homes are brought up to a fit standard, and that the available global account data is transparent and clear. Although I am sure that we will have further debates about how much money is being allocated and where it is being spent, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will see that, in this particular instance, the new clause is unnecessary.

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I am sure we will have further discussions on Report, but I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.