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My hon. Friend will be well aware of our commitment to delivering affordable homes both despite and because of the current difficult economic conditions. Let me give her an example in her constituency. A major housing development in Greenhead street, Middleport, stalled recently owing to the prevailing economic conditions. We were already involved with the development through the Homes and Communities Agency in the west midlands, providing £2.7 million of gap funding to support the delivery of 320 new homes. We were made aware of the problems in delivering homes on this development, and held discussions with key partners and the developers with a view to helping them during these difficult times, and with the twin aims of keeping people in work and making sure that the homes we need get built. This resulted in a further £2.5 million being provided to the registered social landlord partner, Countryside, through the national affordable housing programme, to support
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the delivery of much-needed affordable homes. This timely intervention has enabled the development to continue.

This example demonstrates that investment to revive stalled housing schemes can play a decisive role in housing delivery and regeneration. I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend will welcome the Chancellor’s Budget announcement that a further £400 million will be made available to ensure that stalled developments will go ahead. We estimate this will create or safeguard 30,000 jobs in the construction industry and ensure the delivery of an extra 10,000 homes, and I hope my hon. Friend will ensure that Stoke plays a part in that.

Despite the difficult economic conditions, we remain committed to the delivery of affordable housing, and our aspiration is nationally to reach 70,000 homes a year by 2010-11, including 45,000 homes for social rent. To help us deliver this target, we want to give all local authorities, including Stoke-on-Trent, the opportunity to play a bigger role in the delivery of affordable housing where this can be done cost-effectively, and we also want to allow councils to bid for social housing grant from the Homes and Communities Agency should they wish to do so.

My hon. Friend mentioned the important role that local authorities can play in the delivery of housing, and I agree. We have just consulted on new freedoms for councils, which could remove some of the old barriers and disincentives that councils face in building new homes. Specifically, we have consulted on whether councils should keep all the rental income from the new homes they build, and whether they should keep the full capital receipts if those homes went on to be sold under any future right to buy.

I have already mentioned the Budget. My hon. Friend will be aware that an extra £100 million was made available in the Budget to allow local councils to build good-quality, energy-efficient homes.

In the meantime, over the last two years we have also supported Stoke-on-Trent city council’s delivery of housing, to the tune of almost £21 million to the regional housing pot. This comprised about £14.5 million for the regeneration of existing housing stock in addition to the previously mentioned allocations to RENEW, and more than £6 million to bring the council’s housing stock up to the decent homes standard.

Stoke-on-Trent city council advises my Department that all homes will be decent by 2010, and to help them and other authorities achieve this, as part of the recent fiscal stimulus package we announced the bringing forward of expenditure through the major repairs allowance to sustain and accelerate the decent homes programme. I am pleased to report that Stoke-on-Trent successfully bid to bring forward expenditure worth almost £3 million from 2010-11 into 2009-10, one of only three local authorities to do so in the west midlands.

I am also delighted to report to the House that in the past two years we have fully met Stoke-on-Trent’s bids for disabled facilities grant. Let me remind Members that this small but vital grant enables assistance to be given to some of the most vulnerable people in our community, thereby enabling them to remain in their own homes. For Stoke-on-Trent, this amounted to £1.8 million over the two years.

I know that my hon. Friend is very concerned about rounds 5 and 6 of the housing private finance initiative.
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She mentioned that Stoke-on-Trent city council submitted an expression of interest for a comprehensive housing-led regeneration scheme, and that it is eagerly awaiting a decision on this. I am afraid I cannot give her the news on that tonight. However, I can say that we received a large number of high-quality expressions of interest in this initiative from various other parts of the country. We are currently considering the Homes and Communities Agency recommendations, and an announcement on the outcome will be made shortly. I shall certainly ensure that my hon. Friend is made aware of any news.

I congratulate my hon. Friend again on securing this debate. I commend her ambition and determination for her area, and I hope that I have demonstrated to her that the Government match her determination and ambition in delivering more and better homes in Stoke-
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on-Trent. This demonstration has been matched by significant and, indeed, unprecedented investment in housing and regeneration by this Government for her area. In difficult economic times, this investment will continue to provide real help now for people and businesses in Stoke, and to ensure that the city has the housing stock that she knows that it wants and deserves. I look forward to visiting her constituency soon, to see for myself the plans that she has for Stoke-on-Trent. Again, I thank her for the opportunity to debate this important issue, and I look forward to seeing her soon.

Question put and agreed to.

10.20 pm

House adjourned.

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