|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Government have conducted various surveys to forecast the number of homes that will be needed for our growing population. An inevitable consequence of changes in lifestyle and the ageing population is the fact that we
have more and more single households. Between now and 2026, the number of households will grow by 209,000 a year, and 72 per cent. of them will be single-person households. But we are not delivering 209,000 homes a year; in 2004-05, the most recent year for which we have statistics, we delivered only two thirds of that number168,000. There is a gap.
People are having to live in overcrowded accommodation, with friends or relatives or in temporary accommodation because they cannot obtain the housing that they need. The private rented market has not provided enough homes to meet the social needs of people in all categories. We therefore need social housing, and a mechanism to ensure that it is provided throughout the country, not just in certain areas. That necessitates a proactive approach from central Government, consulting and, I hope, in co-operation with, local authorities. In London we have a Mayor with planning powers, and what he does is very important, but we need a national strategy. The brunt should not be borne by those of us who live in urban areas, or in new areas such as the Thames Gateway.
We can do some valuable things. Yesterday I spoke at a public meeting organised by Friends of the Earth in the neighbouring constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Margaret Hodge). She and I were both on the platform. A representative of Barking council talked about the boroughs interesting plans to deal with the huge increase in its population as part of the Thames Gateway development. There will be about 140,000 new homes, or housing units, in the Thames Gateway. Many of the homes in Barking will be built at a higher level than the town centre. The hon. Gentleman talked about flood plains. Although these homes are being built on a flood plain, they will be in less danger of flooding than the existing ones.
The new housing will enable us to do something about climate change. We can introduce solar panels, and district heating schemes. We can use the surplus water from power stations: when the water has cooled them, it can be used for district heating schemes. Enormous gains can be made from modern, technological housing development. We do not all benefit from living in areas containing 17th-century and 18th-century cottages; any that existed in Ilford have long gone. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Ilford was just a little hamlet, an adjunct to Barking, where the abbey was. The only buildings of any great age in my constituency are the hospital chapel, a fantastic building that dates back to the 11th and 12th centuries, and Valentines mansion, which dates back to the end of the 17th century. My constituency, like many others, only had a few thousand people 120 years ago, and then the railway came. As a result, my borough has a quarter of a million people. Further growth and urbanisation of London followed as the suburbs linked together, and we ended up with a global city.
Change is inevitable, and we need to manage that change. Last December, in response to the Barker review of housing supply, the Government published several documents, including a consultation document on the planning gain supplement, which contained several interesting proposals, including modifications to section 106. That also raised the issue of whether it is right that people derive private benefit from huge increases in the value of their land and in their ability to make money, effectively at the public expense, while
a mechanism is not provided for the public to benefit in return. The community, not just the private interest that is fortunate enough to own land in an area of development, needs to benefit.
The Governments response in December 2005 set out a commitment to provide more homes for future generations and an ambitious package of measures to help people into home ownership and to increase social housing, which is vital. When I was young, I lived in a council house
When I was younger than I am now, many years ago, the area where I was growing up, Hainault, in the Ilford, North constituency, had a large body of social housing. There was a huge estate. Since the 1970s, almost all the houses have been sold. Compensatory social housing has not been built in the London borough of Redbridge. Since the Labour council of a few years in the 1990s, a policy of housing association developments has been in place, but the total number of social housing units is only a few thousand.
Every week at my advice surgery, people complain about shortages of housing. They say that they bid for a property under the choice scheme, with a glossy booklet produced by the east London councils. After checking, we find that there were 250 bids, and that the constituent is, say, number 37 or 64 on the list. The constituent says, What is the point of bidding? We contact the council, and the council officers issue a standard letterI know what it will say before I read itthat there is a scheme, people can bid and the constituent is entitled to do so. That is it, unless, there is some overriding medical need.
I have quite a lot of large families in my constituency, and I was told that, apart from new build, only about four or five local authority or housing association properties with four bedrooms become available in the borough every year. There might be 40 families with overriding medical needs, yet they will not get one of those properties. We need new housing to meet those social needs and we cannot allow selfish nimbyism in certain areas to prevent the majority of people from accessing the housing that they require. Not everybody has the ability or resources to purchase a property. We therefore need mixed tenurejoint ownership, shared equity and so on. Above all, we need to build properties for people to live in, and we need them in areas where we have the land, access and communication.
We also need sometimes to create new communities. The hon. Member for Wealden referred in error in his interesting speech to Essex and motorways. My constituency has the Redbridge roundabout, which is the second most polluted area for particulates in the air, according to the Evening Standard survey two years ago
Mike Gapes: I will relate my comments exactly. The M11 in Essex comes down to the Redbridge roundabout, and along its route communities have been growing. Throughout Essex and Cambridgeshire, one can see hamlets and new housing all along the motorway. The M11 has provided a means for new build and new communities. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that improved road communication in his constituency and elsewhere would be good, but would he campaign against a motorway going through the beautiful countryside, the virtues of which he was extolling? Perhaps he would. I would welcome an intervention if he wishes to intervene. Obviously not; I will carry on.
The Government have an ambition to raise the level of house building in England to 200,000 a year by 2016. That is a big ambition, but in the 1960s we built far more than that a year. Many of the properties that we built at that timewe must learn the lessonshave had to be knocked down because they were tower blocks and not very good, but we desperately need the housing and transport infrastructure, particularly if London is to maintain its position as a global city. In that context, Crossrail is vital, and I look forward to the Bill going to the other place very soon.
Mike Gapes: The hon. Gentleman was listening and he heard what I said. I said that his Bill is an interesting, sophisticated form of nimbyism. His speech was a curates egg. I am endorsing some of what he said, but I also have concerns. Those who are against new housing and who are nimbyish will hide behind aspects of the Bill, because they see it as a way of delaying, prevaricating and stopping the housing development that is so vital.
We need to ensure that new homes are built in areas where they are needed. The hon. Gentleman is right that we need to look at the infrastructure and at water supply. I agree that there is a serious problem of water shortages in London and the south-east, but the main cause is the water companies and their massive leaks, which waste far more water than could be lost through an hon. Member with a leaky tap.
Lyn Brown: Does my hon. Friend agree that Thames Waters record is truly disgraceful? Would it not be abhorrent to our constituents if that private sector companys record stopped them getting the homes built that they desperately need?
Mike Gapes: I agree. There is a hosepipe ban in parts of my borough but not in others, because two water companiesEssex and Suffolk Water and Thames Wateroperate in the London borough of Redbridge. We need to take a serious approach to the water companies, because it is a disgrace that water charges increase while those companies continue to waste our water through leaks
The Governments housing and planning policies are set out in planning policy guidance note 3, which was published in 2000, and in the draft planning policy statement that is to replace PPG3 later this year. An essential part of PPG3 is a move away from the old-fashioned predict and provide approach, which seems to underlie the Bill, to a planning, monitoring and management approach. Local authorities and central Government must use much more forward planning and, in that respect, I have some sympathy with some of the comments of the hon. Member for Wealden. Forward planning is needed in relation to both housing and capacity, both existing and planned and thought must be given to the provision of schools, doctors surgeries, hospitals and other infrastructure.
We also need to take account of the potential for unexpected developments. For example, the number of people in work affects the amount of traffic on the roads. In the days of Conservative Government, when we had 3 million unemployed, far fewer people were travelling to and from work, so there was less traffic and less congestion. Under the Labour Government, people are more prosperous. There are 28 million people in work, more people own cars and drive them to the supermarket to shop or on holiday. The downside to higher levels of economic activity, as I pointed out to Friends of the Earth last night, is that, sometimes, that affects our ability to meet our targets on carbon emissions and other targets. However, I do not want to live in a world where we all go back to living in cavesor the Conservative version, where we have 3 million unemployed. I would rather have a Labour Government and high employment and prosperity, but recognise that we have to manage the consequences.
That is why we need planning. That is why sometimes we have to say to local communities that it is all very well their saying no to this and no to that, but there is a greater good and a greater need. The residents of two streets might not want a school to be built opposite them because they think it will generate traffic, but we have to take account of the families living in the 30 surrounding streets who have children who will attend that school and benefit from its existence. That, of course, is when we have to take on board the wider community interest. The same arguments apply nationally, as well. For that reason, I welcome the fact that the Government are going to revise their planning policy guidance and I look forward to the outcome later this year.
We need to create mixed communities. I hope that we have moved away from the ghettoisation of poor people and people in social housing. Many of the new housing developments in my borough mix different housing together. Under the rules laid down by the Mayor of London and agreed with central Government, a proportion of social housing has to be provided in all new housing developments above a certain size, but clearly there are ways in which developers get round that. They find smaller units and try to get under the threshold. We must make sure that people of all kinds can get housing in the areas where they need to live.
One by-product of that is the impact on our economy. In the debate on the previous Bill, we talked about public service workers and protecting emergency workers.
They need protection and they need to be prevented from being obstructed in their work, but they also need somewhere to live. In London, we increasingly find that people who work in our health services, and our police, teachers and firefighterspeople who work in the whole range of public servicescannot afford to live in the boroughs where they work. They have to commute from a long way out because of the lack of social housing or affordable housing in the big cities. That is not a healthy development, because, apart from anything else, it means that people do not necessarily relate to the communities in which they work, because they do not live there. We need to get a balance. I am not saying that we should tell people where to livefar from it. There should be freedom of choice, but people should have that choice. They should have the ability to purchase a property or to pay the rent in the areas where they wish to work.
In my borough, there are young teachers who spend their first three or four years after qualifying working in our primary schools. Then they look for promotion and immediately move out of the London borough of Redbridge and the excellent schools in Ilford to some other part of the country, because they can afford the housing there and they cannot afford it in their current area. We lose their experience, which is not good for continuity or the needs of young people.
Lyn Brown: Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the biggest difficulties that both of our communities face is high private rents? They would more than cover the mortgage of an individual. People who are being forced to live in private rented accommodation in our communities because of the lack of availability of public sector housing often find themselves in a poverty trap and cannot work, despite wanting to, because they cannot afford to work and pay the private rents.
Mike Gapes: My hon. Friend is right. That is the biggest problem. When someone is paying £230 or £260 a week in private rent for a three-bedroom property, which seems to be about the going rate in my borough, they have to have a large income to afford it. The problem is that people get trapped. People who want to work cannot get off the benefits cycle. As soon as they get a job, their housing benefit is reduced and they are in a situation in which working has become almost useless to them in terms of bettering their life.
The planning system has an important role to play in ensuring that the housing market is flexible and responsive to these needs and that we can provide homes for all the people in all our communities, including those who are trapped and paying extortionate private rents. Some people become trapped in other ways. A couple might move into a social housing property when they had no children, or one child, and then expand their family so that they end up with three or four children but are then unable to find a property in their area within their price range, become subject to the whims of the housing association, and cannot find a property to transfer to
near to where the children are at school. That is a dilemma that I hear about regularly.
Lyn Brown: Does my hon. Friend agree that London has the highest rates of overcrowding in the country? There has been a 20 per cent. increase in overcrowding since 1991. The only way in which we can deal with that and with private rents in a market-driven way is to address the supply of public sector and private sector housing to drive down rents and increase the affordability of tenancies.
Mike Gapes: I agree. I therefore welcome the various initiatives recently introduced by the Government. They are not sufficient, but at least they are a step in the right direction. I also welcome the issuing of the code for sustainable homes, on which there was a consultation that ended in March. That code is to be strengthened to improve the environmental sustainability of homes so that when people move to a new home it is not of poor quality but subject to high standards. The Government are going to revise the code to ensure that energy efficiency ratings are made mandatory for new and existing homes. That will help poorer people because it will reduce their fuel bills. There will also be minimum standards of water efficiency and measures to ensure that builders and people in the building trade must have the highest standards and not engage in jerry-building and competing on the basis of low quality.
Many things can be done to ensure that we meet the needs of our communities. We must consider energy and micro-technology. Wind turbines, which are popular, should be put not only on the houses of people with lots of money in the countryside but on those of people in cities where that is sensible and sustainable.
Mike Gapes: The audit that the Bill proposes is unnecessary. We already have many forms of planning guidance, consultations and other measures that have been put forward by the Government over many years. The essence of the Bill is a sophisticated delaying tactic
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|