Long-term Plan for Housing

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Excerpts
Thursday 11th January 2024

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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I do not think that the delivery of more affordable housing and the delivery of more beautiful housing need to be in tension with each other. In fact, the right housing in the right place allows more support for development to go ahead, which is one of the big barriers we see to delivering more housing in local areas, and affordable housing should be beautiful housing too. Noble Lords have had a lot of debates in this House about the standards within our homes, particularly within our social housing. We should be no less ambitious for the standards that people enjoy in their housing, whether it is social housing, affordable housing or private housing. The noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, talked about space for children to play, for example. Taking into account that kind of amenity is important for the right development to go ahead. We should recognise that we have made significant progress in recent years in building more houses. We have had some of the highest housing delivery in the past four years that we have had in the past 20 years, and we seek to continue that, but without those measures necessarily needing to be in tension. The noble Lord spoke about Ministers talking to each other in different departments. I reassure him that, particularly on these areas that cut across different interests and on something like net zero or environmental impact, we bring together the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, my department and Defra to work together to provide solutions on these issues.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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My Lords, I shall follow the theme of social housing. I declare my position as a vice-president of the LGA and the NALC. Responding to the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, the Minister said that the Government are committed to social housing. We have just heard that again, and it is great, but the Minister may be aware of a document from the National Housing Federation, Lets Fix the Housing Crisis: Delivering a Long-Term Plan for Housing. This crosses over with her former departmental responsibilities. It asserts:

“The wider fiscal, societal and economic benefits of social housing are poorly captured in current cost benefit analysis”,

and, particularly, in the Government’s Green Book. The NHF stresses that we need housing

“in the right location, with the right support for those who need it”,

which sounds very much like the Green Party’s Right Homes, Right Place, Right Price. Does the Minister agree that planning needs to think about this social element as well as the purely spatial element? We have been relying on the market for decades now. It has not worked out very well and has given the crisis we have now, plus the terrible privatisation of right to buy. I will pick up a point from the noble Lord, Lord Crisp: one of the things that the NHF report highlights is the increase in the long-term cost of housing benefit as a result of the increase in the number of retired people who are in private rental housing now. Do we not have to join up far more planning and financial considerations and pure human considerations to secure an affordable place for everybody to live?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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My Lords, a number of the changes that we are making to the NPPF address some of the noble Baroness’s concerns. They are all about allowing a local area, using the evidence of local need, to produce a plan that works for that area. The noble Baroness touched on the Green Book and how we value social housing but also wider social benefits when we look at value for money in government projects. The Government have done work on reforming the Green Book over a number of years to ensure that we better take that into account. There is also better assessment of national well-being as a factor when we look at policies. We are looking, for example, at valuing our green space more clearly in our policy assessments, so that we can take a more well-rounded look. That is at the heart of my department’s mission. When looking at levelling up across the whole of the United Kingdom, one point that often gets made is that the old ways of doing things incentivises you to invest only in London and the south-east. While that is incredibly important, we know that investing in communities across our country is how we will actually deliver for people, and that is what my department has been created to do.