Dawn speaks on the Housing and Planning Bill on 2 November 2015

Dawn raises the wiping out of social housing in London and the astronomical costs of affordable housing in the capital during the Housing and Planning Bill debate.

Dawn Butler MP: According to the Government’s own figures, with 200 right to buys being sold in Brent and replacement starts at zero, we are already in a deficit of 200 homes. With £450,000 being 20 times the average salary in Brent, does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to start building genuinely affordable homes for less than £450,000 as soon as possible?

John Healey MP (Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government): My hon. Friend is right. In truth the scale and cost of the housing crisis we face in this country requires every part of the housing sector, from private house builders to housing associations to councils, to do a great deal more, and we need more homes of all types, including social rented homes. The fundamental flaw with this Bill and this Government’s plans is that they put all the chips on starter homes and on home ownership. I am going to come on to why this is such a mistake for the homes we need in the future.

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Dawn Butler MP: Westminster City Council, which is next door to the Prime Minister’s favourite borough, has a very wise leader who states that right to buy could wipe out swathes of social housing and that because of this Bill “we will not be able to house the people that we need to house.”

Alan Brown MP (SNP):

That is the risk I am highlighting, so I completely agree with that intervention.

Despite the Government’s bluster, if we look at the number of new build starts compared with the number of right-to-buy sales, we will see that their track record shows that one-for-one replacement has not worked. The SNP’s record in Scotland shows that completion rates for both private and social housing are much higher than those for the UK as a whole.

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Dawn Butler MP: Does my right hon. Friend agree with the senior Tory who says that the right to buy will wipe out swathes of social housing?

Sadiq Khan MP:

The Conservative leader of Westminster Council was speaking on behalf of Londoners who care about London’s social fabric and are worried about the hollowing out of our city—I wish that more Conservative Members would take up that debate. With the Bill, the Government have a real opportunity to start the process of solving this crisis, but they have flunked it. Instead of solutions, their proposals will make the problems even worse.

Let me turn to the extension of the right to buy to housing association tenants. Over recent years there has been no like-for-like replacement of affordable homes sold under the existing right-to-buy scheme. The Secretary of State could not dispute figures from his own Department that I put to him, which show that in London since 2012, only one in seven council homes sold have been replaced. How can anyone believe that it will be different this time? There is nothing in the Bill to guarantee that money must be reinvested in the local area, replacing like-for-like sold-off homes.

Some housing associations are relaxed about selling off homes in inner London and replacing them with units in cheaper parts of outer London or even further afield. That damages London’s social mix, accelerating the exodus of poorer people out of our great city, and making the affordability crisis even worse. To make matters worse, the only way that the Government could fund this policy is by forcing councils to sell off the most expensive homes. In London, that means losing substantial amounts of affordable family homes, and the city’s low and middle-income families will be squeezed out to fund the sell-off of housing association homes nationwide.

Together with colleagues from across the House who want to join me, I will be fighting to retain the money from housing association and council property sales in London for Londoners. There must also be provision for like-for-like replacements in the same areas as where the properties are sold

It is not as if the Government are planning a big boost in truly affordable homes. They have put all their eggs in the starter home basket, but in London starter homes simply will not help struggling first-time buyers. With starter homes capped at a cost of £450,000, someone with a 25% deposit—that, by the way, is £98,000—would need an income of £77,000 to afford one. The Secretary of State talks about aspiration, but who exactly is he talking about?

This Bill is a missed opportunity. It will not fix London’s housing crisis; in fact it will make it worse. It will not deliver the genuinely affordable homes Londoners need to buy or rent. It will not help the councils and the Mayor to start to build the homes Londoners desperately need. It will not rein in spiralling rent rises for those in the private sector. It will not end the scandal of the homelessness problem.

Next May’s mayoral election is a referendum on the capital’s housing crisis. This Bill reinforces why that referendum cannot come soon enough.

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