General debate on housing and homes - House of Commons, 16 April 2018

According to the Government’s latest statistics, new housing completions in 2017/18 reached 163,250, a 16 per cent increase from the previous year. This is positive news. However, councils are responsible for a tiny proportion of the total completed. The figures show that whilst private developers built 134,110 and housing associations 27,410, only 1,730 houses were completed by local authorities

Key messages   

  • The national housing shortage is one of the most pressing issues we face. The last time this country built more than 250,000 homes a year, councils built more than 40 per cent of them.Only an increase in all types of housing will ensure we can deliver 300,000 homes a year.   
  • According to the Government’s latest statistics, new housing completions are increasing. This is positive. However, councils are only responsible for a tiny proportion of the total completed, mainly due to the financial restrictions placed on councils to borrow to invest in more council homes.  
  • The Housing Revenue Account (HRA) borrowing cap prevents councils from borrowing to invest in new homes. The Government has taken a step forward by lifting the cap for some councils, but this does not go far enough.iii We are calling on the Government to accept the call of councils, and the Treasury Select Committee, to lift the cap entirely for all areas.   
  • Councils should be allowed to replace all social rented homes sold under Right to Buy, and retain 100 per cent of sale receipts. Almost £3.5 billion in Right to Buy discounts has been handed out over the past six years. As councils are only permitted to retain a third of receipts, much-needed replacement homes for social rent have lagged far behind.  
  • A lack of affordable homes to rent is an important factor behind the rise in the use of temporary accommodation. Local authorities are currently housing over 77,000 homelessness families in temporary accommodation, including more than 120,000 children.
  • Local authorities are working to improve affordability and standards in the private rented sector. We welcome the Government’s moves to tackle rogue landlords, but councils need the freedom to implement selective landlord licensing schemes across entire areas.   
  • A proactive, well-resourced planning system is vital to building homes. Councils are working hard to approve nine out of ten planning permissions. However, planning departments are severely under-resourced. Taxpayers are subsidising the costs of applications by around £200 million a year.