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We seek to build on innovative financing to help more people into partial ownership on a shared-equity basis. As noble Lords will have noticed, the Chancellor announced in the Budget that from April this year, two new equity loans will be available through the Government’s shared-equity scheme. In December last year, we announced that social homebuy would continue as a voluntary scheme after the pilot period. That is aimed at increasing opportunities for social housing tenants to access home ownership. We are encouraging landlords to improve affordability and are allowing them flexibility to set low rents and share maintenance. In that context, the HCA must ensure that housing of all tenures and types is appropriate to meet the needs of the community it is provided for. The HCA will have the incentive and expertise to do that.

For those reasons, we cannot agree to the amendment, although its aspiration to deliver more shared-ownership and shared-equity homes through social homebuy and other equity-type products is common across the Benches in your Lordships’ House.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I recognise where the noble Lord, Lord Graham, is coming from and I am pleased to have support in principle for the idea of shared equity in

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homes from the noble Baroness, Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, even if she does not agree that it should be specified in the Bill. I did not really expect the Government to concede that, but I thought we ought to have the debate. I think the Minister, if he will forgive me, got his figures got a little mixed up between national gross figures and the HCA’s share of them, and so forth, but I will not pick bones over that at the moment.

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: I will clarify, if it helps. The expectation of the Homes and Communities Agency was to deliver 70,000 more affordable homes on an annual basis by 2010-11, and 3 million new homes by 2020.

Lord Dixon-Smith: We had better not pursue this arithmetic question much further. I simply thought that I could not let it pass, but I did not want to make a point of it. It will all be there in Hansard. What I wanted to get on the record was that times have moved on, and the question of shared equity in housing now provides a greater degree of flexibility than what was originally almost an apartheid system of private sector and social housing—I do not like to use the term “council housing” any more. They were two sides of a coin and never met. Now we have a much more flexible arrangement, which is wholly to the good.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: Could the noble Lord assist me? My understanding is that a house is owned by a local community and rented to a tenant. Under the scheme, the house will be taken out of public ownership and into the ownership of the tenant. There is nothing shared about it. It is a transfer of ownership, surely.

Lord Dixon-Smith: The short answer to that, in the language in which the noble Lord has put it, is no. Anyway, I do not want to get into that. My purpose at the moment is simply to say that we have had a useful debate, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 23A not moved.]

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 24:

The noble Lord said: I was tempted not to move this amendment in the interests of progress, but my noble friend suggested that that was a lost cause, at least today. There is an important issue here and it would be interesting to hear the Government’s response. There is a question of who determines and decides needs between the sectors. There are the aspirations of occupiers, which I will talk about in a minute, but also the aspirations of owners. Then there are the aspirations of public sector owners, whether that is councils owning properties or arm’s length or social ownership through registered social landlords, and so on.

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It is right that the decent homes programme has set out to bring all socially owned property up to a proper standard. That is right. It would be wrong if the public sector in its widest sense, including all social landlords, were to tolerate conditions that were not up to modern standards and to allow houses to fall back from modern standards because things like central heating had not been replaced and renovated. Nevertheless, that skews priorities in terms of occupiers, because it puts the resources into housing that is occupied by people who already have a reasonable standard of housing—not necessarily at the expense of people who often are living in the worst conditions, but it does not give them priority. That is in some of the private sector tenanted properties—that is, private landlords’ properties.

In a sense, all the while in our discussions on the Bill, the elephant in the room—to use a modern phrase that is fairly unpleasant but one that people seem to understand—is the private tenanted sector. Some of that sector provides extremely high-quality housing such as luxury apartments, but in the areas in which English Partnerships has interested itself and in which the new agency will also interest itself—what one might call regeneration areas—the worst conditions are very often in the low-quality private rented sector. If we are talking about needs and aspirations, there is a huge great hole in the Bill. We will find ways of talking about the private rented sector later on, so I shall not talk about it in great detail now, but it must be put on the record.

There is no doubt that the Decent Homes programme is to be welcomed and is being welcomed hugely whenever the investment is made. Houses that were built as council houses were built to the high standards of the day, and had more space than any social housing that is built nowadays. My daughter lives in a ground-floor former council flat in Fulham. That is a disgrace really; she is a young, athletic lass and lives in a house that was designed for old people—but there we are. She rents it from a private landlord. Everyone who visits her says, “Look at this kitchen. It’s a wonderful great eat-in kitchen. Look at the size of these bedrooms”. She has learnt from me to say, “Ah, Parker Morris standards”. I am not sure whether she understands what they are, but it is true.

When people decry council housing—quite wrongly in my view—they should remember that those houses were built to the high standards of their time. They did not, however, have modern heating systems or modern insulation, and the doors, windows, roofs, chimney stacks and outside rendering needed to be replaced in time. A massive programme of investment was therefore needed to replace the heating systems, to re-render, to re-roof and to do whatever else was needed—new doors, new windows. Am I talking about the Decent Homes programme? No, I am not; I am talking about the massive programme to refurbish council housing that took place in this country from the end of the 1960s and throughout the 1970s. It was a huge and hugely successful programme.

Thirty years later, the Decent Homes programme is bringing the houses that were brought up to scratch then up to scratch now. In some cases, the standards

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are better; the insulation is better and the heating system is more efficient. In some cases, it is simply a replacement programme, because every so often you have to replace. One of the problems in the public sector is that the replacement programme tends to take place through great splurges of investment rather than more organically over the years. Nevertheless, Decent Homes is the second huge programme of investment in the council houses that were built in this country before the war and in the 1940s, 1950s and into the 1960s. We should recognise that. This programme is not new; it is simply the second phase.

In many ways, the tenants in those houses quite rightly aspire to live in modern conditions—the same conditions in which their neighbours who bought their council houses live or in which the people across the street live who are in owner-occupied properties. It is also the aspiration of the public sector landlords and social landlords to be owners of top-quality properties, so tenants are not the only ones who have aspirations. What do tenants want? They often want better housing, better locations and better types of occupation. Lodgers might want to become tenants and private sector tenants might want to become housing association tenants. They might want to buy their properties or to move into other properties and become owner-occupiers. This is a natural process. When people talk about housing needs, it is not just a simple matter of looking at how many homeless people there are or how many young couples cannot find a decent property. It is a much more complex process of evolution throughout the housing market as broadly defined.

At the very heart of all this is the private sector. In areas where housing conditions are difficult, the private landlord sector is at the heart of the problem. Not long ago we discussed a previous housing Bill which introduced a series of measures ranging from empty dwelling management orders to selective licensing to enable local authorities to tackle some of the more problematic landlord-owned properties. Looking at it from the perspective of an area in Lancashire that has many such problems associated with private sector landlords, I can say that so far that legislation has done nothing at all for us. It has been a flop. This is not the Bill to put it right, but if the Government and the new Homes and Communities Agency are going to take a new look at these regeneration areas—no doubt the HCA will because it is a new body taking over responsibilities from a number of others—the private sector really has to be looked at again. The current legislation may be okay and it may just need more push and more impetus and less blockage from above when councils want to do something, or it may be defective and we may need more legislation—God help us—but this matter will not go away; it is the elephant in the room. I beg to move.

Baroness Andrews: I hope that I can respond swiftly to this. The noble Lord is right in many respects. We all aspire to have better homes but our aspirations are dependent on our circumstances. He asked who determines needs and how we know that they are being met. This process is well worked out. Local housing authorities deliver on aspirations as well as

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needs. When they set out the needs for their communities, they are setting out their aspirations whether they are looking to provide more social rented housing, more shared equity or more new homes. The aspirations of many people can be met only if we look at the provision of housing as a whole. That is why it is so important that the HCA will support and help to secure the delivery of 3 million homes. That will meet people’s aspirations as the whole housing chain is freed up in different ways so that we can get movement as people move out of rented accommodation and perhaps into shared or full ownership. We need to look at this picture as a whole. That is certainly true as regards looking at aspirations.

The noble Lord focused on decent homes. This matter has an interesting history. The Decent Homes programme is the most recent attempt to keep our housing stock in good condition. People’s aspiration to live in warm insulated homes with a modern bathroom and kitchen is very modest indeed and we are absolutely right to prioritise and meet it. However, different needs have to be met as situations change. The noble Lord is also right to say that the private rented sector presents a particular challenge. This is not mentioned in the Bill but he will know that we established an inquiry under Julie Rugg to look into the range of issues thrown up by the private rented sector. They are very complex. It is a very complex market. It will be very interesting to see what emerges from that.

The Bill places a clear responsibility on the HCA to provide decent affordable homes and the regeneration of communities with a view to meeting the needs of all people. I stress that that means all people. It means their changing needs as well, because aspirations change. People may aspire to a family home rather than to a small flat. They may, as they grow older, aspire to downsize to a more manageable, safer home. We have to meet the aspirations of different generations, underpinned by the evidence that drives our intelligence up through local authorities and through the regions. That is the business of planning.

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With the best will in the world, we cannot meet everyone’s aspirations. Personally, I aspire to a small stately home with a stable block, but I do not expect that any one, let alone the Homes and Communities Agency, will enable me to achieve that. It is probably beyond my reach at this point. Now that I think about it, I would also like a Capability Brown landscaped garden to go with it. If we put the provision into the Bill, we are underwriting something rather cynical.

Our aim is that people should have their modest aspirations of a decent home met, whatever their stage and whatever that constitutes in terms of how they are fixed. Therefore, as much as I appreciate the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves— I thought he made an excellent speech—the amendment is not appropriate for the Bill, but I assure him that it would be very difficult for the HCA to meet needs without meeting aspirations at the same time.

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Lord Greaves: I am grateful and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 25:

The noble Baroness said: As we have reached as far as line three on page two of a 222-page Bill—and it will be bigger by the time we have incorporated the government amendments—I shall be extremely quick on this amendment and the next one. The amendment would add to the reference to the needs of people living in England those who are “projected to be living”.

Perhaps it is because of just having gone through an election in which, sadly, a BNP member was elected, in my mind are some of the things said about immigration and the need to provide for the indigenous or existing population only and not to look ahead. I know that that is not a view shared by the Government or anyone in this Room, but I thought it was worth putting down the marker that we need to plan for an expanding indigenous population and for immigration, which I would simply say I regard, by and large, as a good thing. I hope that the Government can confirm that the definition is not to be read narrowly as applying to future needs only but also to future people. I beg to move.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I have no difficulty with what the noble Baroness said. The real difficulty is: projected to be living when? We have all sorts of population projections. We may be able to project with a moderate degree of certainty the next five years and possibly the next decade or just over that—we know that the Government have a projection of a certain number of houses by 2020. That far is reasonably predictable and reasonably capable of being planned for. Once you go beyond that, as we have been obliged to do in legislation over matters such as climate change, and try to make population projections, we are in an entirely different ball game.

I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, will forgive me, but this is perhaps what I would call an amendment too far.

Baroness Andrews: As I understand it, the noble Baroness seeks clarification of the definition of future needs, and I assure her that it means planning for the future population. We must do that, as everyone in the Committee will understand. That commitment is necessarily reflected in the way in which we forecast and plan for population growth and change. Part of the problem is that our estimates lag behind real world time.

It is worth putting on the record that the population is growing and changing in different ways. The most recent ONS household projections for England, which came out last October and were revised at sub-national level in February, project that the number of households will grow by 223,000 on average per year to 2026. Within that, there are some

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really fascinating pressures. Two-thirds will be single-person households, which reflects what is happening to family formation and lifestyle choices. By 2026, older people will account for almost half the increase in the total number of households: that is, 2.4 million more older households. We have to reflect that in what we do.

All that and other elements are being fed into the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit, local authorities and regional spatial strategies, and we are looking at those strategies in the light of that information. There will be an opportunity to update that in due course to come to terms with those figures. Those are the figures that we will work with; and we will work with local authorities, because they know the pressures that they have in their neighbourhoods. We have to work in partnership with them, and we have to bring in the private sector and plan a co-ordinated and integrated strategy.

I assure the noble Baroness that we need to take account of our future population. We have a growing younger population in some parts of the country, and we need more large family homes. That will be part of the market intelligence that makes the HCA’s investment priorities and the way in which they are iterated between local authorities, regional strategies and the work of the HCA.

Baroness Hamwee: I am grateful for that. I particularly mentioned immigration because this country should welcome it, and the Minister encompassed that in her answer. She is nodding, so that is on the record. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 26:

The noble Baroness said: This amendment provides that, where we talk about meeting the needs of people living in England, we will accept that there are different needs for different parts of the country. I was prompted to table this amendment—although not specifically in this Bill—by having heard my noble friend Lord Greaves talk so often about how life is very different in Pendle compared with London.

Lord Greaves: I thought that my noble friend was going to say Burnley.

Baroness Hamwee: All right, Burnley. Life is different in Tower Hamlets from how it is in Kingston. England is not homogenous; it must be seen region by region and not just as a matter of overall numbers. I want to get the Minister’s assurance that that is implicit where it is not explicit. I beg to move.

Lord Greaves: I will add one or two points. First, when we met last week, the Minister said that there would be regional organisations for the new agency,

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just as there are for English Partnerships and for the Housing Corporation. Can she explain in a little more detail how it will work and how it will be organised at the regional level? In particular, to what extent will policy-making be devolved, and how will the Government and the Housing and Communities Agency come to a strategic view on the allocation of resources to the different regions? Once those resources have been allocated, how will the policies of the regions be allowed to evolve diversely? If it is a two-way process of discussion and negotiation, to what extent will the devolution of policy and diversity be accepted?

Within each region, will the new agency have a system of accountability to local people, or will it be accountable upwards to the national organisation of the HCA and through to the Government? In particular, what will the agency’s relationship be to the Government Offices for the Regions and the relevant regional development agencies? Will there be any form of accountability to whatever regional systems may follow the regional assemblies once they have been closed down?

My final question concerns the balance of the new agency. It is an interesting organisation because on the one hand it will provide accommodation for people who need it, and inevitably the larger balance of the funding will be expected to go to those areas experiencing the most homelessness, which are the growth regions, particularly in the south-east and perhaps also in the West Midlands. On the other hand, the regeneration aspects of the agency will come from English Partnerships. Attention has been focused on areas that have not been growing and need to be regenerated, partly in order to stimulate economic and social growth. However, that brings us back to the old discussions about regional policy, a topic that Governments of whatever party do not much like to talk about nowadays. Nevertheless, it is clear that there has to be a balance in the relationship between meeting the needs of people in growth areas who need accommodation and responding to the needs of those in areas of manufacturing decline that need to be regenerated. Here I mention east Lancashire, which the noble Baroness visited and where the housing stock desperately needs to be improved as part of an overall economic, social and community regeneration package.

That is the clear regional dimension, and it would be interesting to know the Government’s thinking on how the inevitable conflict of priorities is to be resolved.

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