[Albert Owen in the Chair] — Affordable Housing (London)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:48 am on 9 September 2015.

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Photo of Mark Francois Mark Francois Minister of State (Communities and Local Government) 10:48, 9 September 2015

I have a lot to cover. If the hon. Lady is patient for a moment, I might be able to give way later.

We exceeded our 2011-15 affordable homes target by 16,000 homes, delivering nearly 186,000 affordable homes during the period. In fact, more council housing has been built since 2010 than in the previous 13 years. To give one example in my hon. Friend’s constituency, the Cane Hill development, which he mentioned, will include up to 675 homes, including 25% affordable homes and 80% family-sized homes. It will also bring back into use three local listed buildings, which are currently derelict, and provide new open public space. It is a very good example of the kind of mixed use development that can take place in London and that can help boost affordable housing along the way.

Several hon. Members mentioned foreign ownership of properties. My right hon. Friend Mark Field made a number of suggestions on that point; I am not sure that I agree with all of them. I think that he was provoking debate and I suspect that he succeeded. He referred to capital gains tax at one point. On that specific point with regard to overseas purchasers, he will know that the autumn statement 2013 announced that from April 2015, the Government will introduce capital gains tax on future gains made by non-residents who sell residential property in the UK. That change addresses a significant unfairness in our capital gains tax and property tax regime. That is perhaps one point of comfort that I can offer him, and of course, given the timings, that change is in effect now.

My hon. Friend Mr Hurd mentioned, among several points, the so-called skills gap in construction. It is worth mentioning that the Construction Industry Training Board has reported a rise in apprenticeships. In a 40% increase on 2013, 15,010 new apprenticeships started in 2014, so in fairness the CITB is playing its part to bring people, including young people, into the construction industry to provide the skills that we need for the future.

I talked about initial steps for affordable housing, but we need to go further. We have a big ambition to deliver 275,000 new affordable homes over the course of the Parliament. It will be the fastest rate of affordable housing building in the past 20 years. Delivery in London will be a vital element of that programme, and our officials are working with the Mayor, the GLA and London Councils on increasing capacity to make that ambition a reality to benefit the people of London.

Nearly every Member who spoke talked about the need to increase the rate of affordable house building in the capital, so I will come to that point specifically. The Mayor aims to build at least 42,000 homes a year. The 2015-18 programme is already under way. The initial programme was announced last summer, including the Mayor’s housing covenant 2015-18, and the GLA are inviting further bids. Last year, the Mayor exceeded the target for the number of affordable homes to be built in London, building 17,914 affordable new homes. That was the highest number of affordable homes delivered since current records began in 1991. The Government have invested £3 billion through the GLA from 2011-12 to 2014-15 in housing, Olympic legacy and economic development. An additional £1.45 billion will be invested in housing delivery for the period 2015-18.

In addition, to boost the supply of affordable housing, the Mayor has announced 18 out of a promised 20 housing zones in London, bringing the total number of homes to be built as part of that specific initiative to more than 50,000, of which nearly one third will be affordable to buy or rent. The Mayor expects to confirm two further zones—to complete the 20—later this year.

As several Members mentioned, we have launched a new London Land Commission, which first met in July, with a mandate to identify and release all surplus brownfield land owned by the public sector in London. Led jointly by the Government and the Mayor, the commission will take a central role in driving the delivery of new homes. For example, with the amount of property held by Transport for London, there is a possibility of developing housing, including affordable housing, around some of the stations across the capital.