Alok Sharma: I congratulate the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) on securing this important debate on social housing. I am extremely pleased that she did, because it is important to set out what the Government are doing to fix the broken housing market. She is also keen to talk about social housing. Let me be clear that providing safe, secure and affordable homes for those who need them most is an...
Alok Sharma: I shall address those issues in my speech. We have a constant dialogue with housing associations and, of course, local councils. Let me set out some of the recent announcements that will help to make sure that more affordable and social homes are built. Another announcement in recent weeks has been the one on rent certainty for social housing providers. From the conversations that I have had...
Alok Sharma: Obviously, the hon. Gentleman represents a Scottish seat, and housing is a devolved matter. As we are talking about housing revenue accounts, I can inform Members that there is headroom, as at the end of 2016-17, of £3.5 billion across the country in housing revenue accounts. I know that councils are looking to build more homes. They are also working with housing associations, and this...
Alok Sharma: Let me come on to talk about several issues around the Foxhill estate redevelopment. I want to be clear that the Government are committed to putting councils and communities in the driving seat when it comes to their housing needs. That was reinforced by the estate regeneration national strategy, published last year, which emphasised the need to engage residents and give council and housing...
Alok Sharma: As my hon. Friend knows, the Government are concerned about unauthorised encampments and the effect they can have on settled communities. That is why we will be issuing a call for evidence on the effectiveness of enforcement against unauthorised developments and encampments. I will publish that call for evidence shortly.
Alok Sharma: I know that my hon. Friend has expressed views on this several times in the House. My Department is working closely with the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice to prepare the call for evidence. Once it is published, he and all Members with an interest will have an opportunity to set out their views.
Alok Sharma: Of course I will meet the all-party group, but the whole point of a call for evidence is to allow everyone to feed in their views, and it is precisely those views that we want to hear. Following that, we will, of course, set out plans to take this further.
Alok Sharma: The Government are providing substantial support for the building of social homes. We recently announced an additional £2 billion of funding, which takes the figure for the affordable homes programme to more than £9 billion. We have provided rent certainty for social landlords, and we have announced that there will be a £1 billion lift in housing revenue account borrowing caps.
Alok Sharma: Since 2010, nearly 128,000 homes for social rent have been built in England, and 118,000 have been built for affordable rent. The hon. Lady talks about the money available for housing. I can confirm that, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said in his Budget statement, we are making at least £44 billion available over the next five years.
Alok Sharma: My hon. and learned Friend makes a very important point. I commend her for the work that she is doing in encouraging the development of community land trusts, for which I announced additional funds only last week.
Alok Sharma: Since 2010, we have delivered 357,000 affordable homes including, as I said earlier, about 128,000 homes for social rent. As I also said previously, we are providing £9 billion for the affordable homes programme, a £1 billion lift in HRA borrowing caps, and rent certainty for social landlords. That will help the sector to build more affordable homes, including social rented homes.
Alok Sharma: One of the key issues in our consultation on local housing needs, which closed on 9 November, was viability assessments. We will of course review what comes forward, but we have made it very clear that we want developers to build affordable homes.
Alok Sharma: I commend my hon. Friend for the work that he is doing in his constituency to encourage more building of homes, including social homes, and I am delighted by the progress that is being made in estate regeneration. My hon. Friend’s constituency has received £1.25 million of capacity funding. More detailed eligibility criteria for the national productivity investment fund will be...
Alok Sharma: Of course we support the right to buy. It has meant that people have been able to own homes, which I think is incredibly important. We are making more money available for affordable homes but, as I have said, there will be at least £44 billion over the next five years so that more homes can be built. We have a housing crisis now because not enough homes were built under the last Government.
Alok Sharma: In the Budget, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor set out the planning reforms that we are looking at, which will have an impact on local authorities bringing forward more sites more quickly for building. We have also announced an uplift of up to £1 billion for the housing revenue account, which will make a substantial difference.
Alok Sharma: Decisions on who is allocated particular properties are ultimately for local authorities and landlords to take at local level. However, our statutory guidance on social housing allocations encourages councils to give appropriate priority to those who need ground-floor accommodation, including disabled people.
Alok Sharma: The Grenfell inquiry is independent, so I will let the judge take care of that. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the Government will be publishing a social housing Green Paper next year, and that I am conducting a tour of the country and meeting social housing tenants directly. Of course we will consider access to accommodation for disabled people that is suitable for their needs as part of...
Alok Sharma: The hon. Gentleman will have noted that in the Budget the Chancellor set out our plans to consult on longer tenancies in the private rented sector, and that is precisely what we will be doing.
Alok Sharma: Energy efficiency, as a result of the policies this Government have put in place, has improved. Fuel costs are now several hundred pounds cheaper than they were in 2010.
Alok Sharma: Of course I am delighted that my hon. Friend has highlighted the stamp duty cut, but we also know that for a number of years we have been running the Help to Buy scheme, which has helped 135,000 households already, and the extra £10 billion committed a few weeks ago will help another 35,000 households.