Peter Dowd: Is my hon. Friend aware that as a result of this Bill, one of my local housing associations is preparing to sell off stock that is expensive to maintain as it becomes vacant, even if that is through auction, and it is incrementally moving out of the very areas it was supposed to serve?
Barry Gardiner: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point, and in my constituency 500 council homes in Brent would be at risk of forced sale, rather than going to people on the waiting list. We have 4,500 households on the waiting list in bands A to C. Band D has been abolished, and we have had to tell people that anyone in band D does not stand a chance of getting a home in Brent North. That is the scale of the problems we are facing, and the response that we have had from the Government is totally inadequate to meet the housing needs of people in London. High rent, lower than average incomes and a larger than average household size in my constituency means that affordability is a huge problem.
Council and housing association rents are to be cut by 1% a year. That is mixed news. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, it will help very few of the 3.9 million social tenants—it just comes off their housing benefit—but it is a great bonus for the Treasury. Some £1.7 billion will be removed from the housing benefit bill by leaving a disastrous hole in council and housing association finances. It is there, in the social rented sector, that the real price of this measure will be paid for and felt by tenants.
Future planning for housing development will have a greater and greater share of homeownership, rather than social rented housing. Communities will find themselves broken up by redevelopment or, in the long term, by the loss of secure tenancies, which have been a bedrock of stable neighbourhoods. I want children in my constituency to grow up knowing that in three years’ time they will be able to sit their GCSEs and their A-level exams at the same school they started off in at the age of 11. The Government are denying them that right. It used to be that an English family’s home was their castle—no longer.
CLICK HERE FOR FULL TRANSCRIPT