Housing: Young People - Motion to Take Note

– in the House of Lords am 3:59 pm ar 14 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Lord Young of Cookham:

Moved by Lord Young of Cookham

That this House takes note of the housing needs of young people.

Photo of Lord Young of Cookham Lord Young of Cookham Deputy Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I am grateful to the usual channels in my party for selecting this debate, as my contributions on this subject have sometimes caused distress. I am also grateful to those who have put their names down to speak on a subject whose salience is rising up the political agenda, and I look forward to an informed and constructive debate.

I want to outline what steps might be taken in the next Parliament to improve housing outcomes for everyone, but particularly for young people. They have been one of the principal casualties of the housing market, which the Government themselves admitted in their White Paper seven years ago was broken and which is now, at best, convalescing. The foreword to that White Paper said:

“Soaring prices and rising rents caused by a shortage of the right homes in the right places has slammed the door of the housing market in the face of a whole generation”.

In 1989, more than half of those aged 25 to 34 had a home of their own; now that figure is about a quarter. The most common form of living for those of that age is with their parents. Shelter tells me 45% of renters aged 16 to 24 spend half or more of their income on rent. Many would spend far less with a mortgage on the same property, but the high rent means that they cannot afford a deposit—and, not always mentioned, they are now getting much less space within each flat.

There are wider political consequences from this. That generation of young people have parents and grandparents who share their concern—and may indeed be sharing their home—and will be looking for solutions when they vote later this year.

I was lucky enough to have done nine years as Housing Minister, in four Parliaments, under seven Secretaries of State—counting the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, twice—and with four Permanent Secretaries, confounding the usual “Yes Minister” caricature of transient politicians and permanent civil servants. I draw on that experience in my contribution to this debate, recognising that I got many things wrong.

The first job of the Prime Minister after the election is to make it clear that the Housing Minister will be there, barring accidents, for the whole of that Parliament. That was not unusual. In my first nine years in the other place, there were two Housing Ministers, each lasting the whole Parliament, and both were highly effective. Since 2010, there have been 16. It is important to understand why this is a serious mistake.

An effective Housing Minister who will drive through the radical changes that are needed must build a strong personal relationship with the key players: the National Housing Federation, Homes England, the LGA, the Chartered Institute of Housing, the Town and Country Planning Association, the Home Builders Federation, and many others, including the think tanks. You cannot subcontract the building of those relationships to civil servants. That takes time.

Those relationships will be crucial in getting a picture of the challenge, but also later on when one needs to draw on trust and good will to get reform through. You need to know which go-ahead directors of housing are making the weather, which housing associations have some interesting solutions, and which group of talents is turning around a difficult-to-let estate. There are some really good people in housing today.

More than that, you need to understand the complexities of public expenditure—you need to know your AME from your DEL—and you need to watch the Treasury like a hawk. That requires an understanding of Treasury theology as well as economics. If the Housing Minister is ever in doubt about what to do, he should consult the person who knows more about housing and has done more for housing than anyone else: the noble Lord, Lord Best. To make my point about continuity: who has been the most successful Cabinet Minister in this Parliament? Ben Wallace—he was there for four years.

The key word in the White Paper I mentioned, Fixing Our Broken Housing Market, was “market”. A market is where buyers and sellers meet and where supply matches demand. A good market would make it easier for people to move, promote mobility and make it easier to buy and sell. The group that would benefit most from this extra mobility are those waiting for their first home.

There are 3.6 million homes with two or more spare bedrooms. Many older people want to trade down or to rightsize, freeing up their homes for young families. Professor Mayhew estimated that we need 50,000 homes for older people who want to rightsize, but we are only producing 8,000. An older person rightsizing triggers a chain of movements, promoting labour mobility and making better use of the stock we have. The planning system should be more proactive in securing the right mix of new builds. The best way to help younger buyers is to help older buyers.

Stamp duty is an important impediment to the market—£15 billion of friction—and then there is the hassle of house purchase. Last year, I sold my car. I took a photo, uploaded the details on a website and had an acceptable offer within hours. Later that day, a flat-bed truck arrived and, as the car was driven up the ramps, the money arrived in my bank account. What comparable progress has been made using modern technology to simplify house purchases? None, since I bought my first home 60 years ago.

Many young people have to rent, but private landlords are leaving the market, due to high interest rates, fears about impending legislation, a less attractive tax regime and new energy efficiency standards. The NRLA says that private landlords are more than twice as likely to sell properties than they are to purchase them, exerting upward pressure on rents. We should say to private landlords that, if they sell to their tenant, no capital gains tax or stamp duty will be payable—not a right to buy but an incentive to sell. That would have a dramatic effect on home ownership for young people, almost certainly lowering their housing costs and enabling them to move up the ladder.

I support the Renters (Reform) Bill—by the way, what has happened to it?—but it will reduce supply. The Bill should have been accompanied by measures to increase supply and put the private rented market on a more sustainable basis. Other countries have a different model, which we should progressively adopt. In Europe, long-term institutional finance provides secure, well-managed rented accommodation; in this country, it provides 2% of the rented stock. We need to progressively reduce the overdependence on the private landlord, who can release capital only by selling, and get the pension funds and insurance industry to invest in what, historically, would have been a better investment than equities. The next Minister needs to get those institutions in the room with the Treasury and unlock the barriers to that investment.

I mentioned selling to the tenant, but what about the deposit? I read in the Times that there is £2.5 trillion tied up in housing equity. That is £2,500 billion, money will eventually end up with children and grandchildren, but not when they need it. I understand all the caveats about equity release and the need to take advice, but the product today avoids any negative equity on death and can reduce inheritance tax. People are cautious about it because of the unknown care costs. Many more would take that option, and help young people buy, if the next Government implement the recommendations of the Dilnot commission in 2011 and cap care costs. Again, focusing on the older generation helps the younger ones.

Many young people will not be in the fortunate position of having that help and will need access to social housing, adding to the 1.2 million people on the waiting list. My party needs to overcome its residual resistance to social housing. The old norms that trade unionists and council tenants voted Labour while home owners and professional people voted Tory have been blown out of the water by Brexit and the 2019 election. In 1953, 250,000 council houses were built and my party won the next two elections. What regime encouraged the local authorities, now going bankrupt, to invest in speculative shopping centres and office blocks when they could have been building houses?

A new Administration should look at the role of social housing for young people. Forty years ago, a young couple could put their name on the waiting list and be reasonably confident that, in due course, they would get to the top. Today, if that young couple are sharing with in-laws or living in rented accommodation, they are not likely to have that ability.

Social housing is focused, rightly, on priority groups: those threatened with homelessness—increasingly under Section 21—threatened with domestic violence, in poor health or living in very poor conditions. Then there is additional pressure from those from Ukraine, and as the Home Office stops using hotels for asylum seekers. Access to social housing has become an accident and emergency service. This raises the sensitive question of life tenancies. If a family face a crisis and then, thanks to social housing and the support that goes with it, rebuild their lives and other options become affordable, should they make way for another family who face the crisis that they once faced? I am not suggesting making them homeless again, but perhaps some nudges.

This is relevant because, the last time I looked, a young couple on the waiting list is eight times more likely to be rehoused through a re-let than through a new build. Increasing the flow through social housing will help them. There is a role for an expanded tenant incentive scheme to help families move on, securing a re-let for those on the waiting list at a fraction of the cost of new build and far quicker.

We need to build more new homes of all tenures to meet demand from first-time buyers. Veterans of the LUR Bill will know my views about planning, confirmed by last month’s CMA report, which referred to a

“complex and unpredictable planning system” with “under resourced” planning departments. There is no need to increase public expenditure to unblock the system—just allow planning departments to recruit the staff they need and cover their costs with application fees.

Then my party has to confront the nimbys within our ranks. Yes, we may lose a few votes to the ever-opportunistic Lib Dems if unpopular development goes ahead, but we will lose far more if we do not have a coherent housing policy. We should recognise that the green belt is not sacrosanct and should reinstate local authority targets. You cannot rely on the good will of local government to provide the homes we need.

I do not have time to mention all the relevant factors: the tension between second homes and first homes, skill shortages in the building sector, the dominance of large builders, slow buildout rates and getting the balance right in social housing between new build on the one hand and maintenance of existing stock on the other. I hope other noble Lords will fill the gaps. Nor have I mentioned the many good things this Government have done, a deficiency that I know my noble friend, whose commitment to good housing I applaud, will remedy.

Finally, the next Minister will need what I call a following wind—public opinion. In 1966 “Cathy Come Home” did for homeless young families what “Mr Bates vs The Post Office” has done for sub-postmasters. It mobilised public opinion, drove housing up the agenda so that political parties had to respond, and gave birth to Shelter.

My most formidable opponents—Des Wilson and Sheila McKechnie of Shelter—were also my greatest allies. Their tireless, well-targeted and well-informed campaigning was deeply uncomfortable, but it strengthened my bargaining position with the Treasury and more broadly within the Government. We will need that following wind to open the door that was slammed in the face of a whole generation. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Donaghy Baroness Donaghy Llafur 4:13, 14 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, for initiating this debate and for his comprehensive presentation. I am afraid this is going to go from the sublime to the gorblimey now.

This debate is one to which my noble friend the late Lord McKenzie of Luton would have probably been first to sign up. His knowledge of all aspects of housing need and his understanding that dealing with it was an integral part of tackling poverty were second to none. He was gentle and forensic in his questions to Ministers, seemingly diffident, but a towering force in his campaigning for more social housing and safeguarding jobs in the construction industry.

I had been in the House for only two or three weeks when, on 8 July 2010, there was a debate on social housing, in which the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, made his maiden speech, on rural housing, and my noble friend Lord Touhig made his maiden speech, on housing in Wales. The noble Lord, Lord Best, participated in that debate, and I am so pleased that he is here for today’s proceedings. Lord McKenzie gave the usual comprehensive speech that you would have expected. He was proud of the fact that the Labour Government had launched the largest council house building programme for almost two decades. He regretted the fact that the coalition Government were about to sweep away proposals for a national register of landlords—does that sound familiar?—the regulation of letting and managing agents and the requirement for compulsory written tenancy agreements.

Today, in a debate on housing initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Young, with the noble Lord, Lord Best, and my noble friend Lady Taylor of Stevenage, all genuine experts, putting my name down feels a bit bold. Plenty has been written in Lords reports on intergenerational fairness and the impact of student loans and consequent debt, so I will not be concentrating on those aspects.

I do not think that there was any golden age for housing for young people. I was 38 when I bought my house in London, after 13 years in four bed-sits, only one of which was en suite, as we call it nowadays—we would not have known what that meant in those days. The difference now is that someone on my then equivalent salary would not be able to buy a house without financial assistance from the bank of mum and dad or some government wheeze. The other difference, in the 1960s and 1970s, was that there would not have been so many banks of mum and dad available, and we were used to a lower standard of housing—at least, some of us were.

London is a different world from the rest of the UK when it comes to housing. For instance, there has always been a tendency for young professionals to move out of London when they start raising a family. It used to be when the children were approaching secondary school. Now, they move out when the children reach primary school age. This may explain why so many primary schools are closing in London. Most public sector workers in London with childcare expenses to pay would not be able to buy a house in London. This impacts on the ability to recruit and retain the best staff in London, particularly in Westminster and Whitehall.

The Home Builders Federation has stated:

The UK is a very unaffordable place to buy or rent a home, and increasingly so”.

It echoed what has already been said:

“House prices in the UK have been growing faster than incomes and this disparity is greater than when compared to the EU benchmark”.

Belgium and France have seen house prices fall slightly as a proportion of income, and Finland has ensured that both rental and buying are more affordable.

In the UK, owner-occupiers aged 25 to 34 have dropped by 12% in 20 years. The average age of first-time buyers is increasing—last year, it was 33.5 years —while 58% of first-time buyers were among the highest earners. Research from the Resolution Foundation found that lower home ownership rates among young people mean that

“millennials spend longer in the private rented sector … a typical private renter spent over a third … of their net income on housing costs, more than three times the proportion of net income that a typical mortgagor devoted to their mortgage interest payments”.

I spoke to some of my neighbours when they moved in—young professional women sharing a rented house. Their rent was such that they would never be able to save for a mortgage. It is not a house in multiple occupation; a common feature, particularly in London, is that landlords sidestep HMO requirements and let the house to one name only, so they do not have the safety requirements. That is all too common, and there are not the resources in local government to ensure that it is stopped. If councils were properly funded, they would have an important role to provide accommodation for young people; the GLC, for instance, had a scheme for hard-to-let dwellings.

However, since 2010, councils have had a 60% cut in spending by central government. Government Ministers, as the noble Lord, Lord Young, has said, encourage councils to be more entrepreneurial and raise their own funds. In 2015, the Government abolished the Audit Commission, which kept a check on local government spending; this was an appalling act of irresponsibility.

This week’s New Statesman contains an article about the dire financial state of local government. It gave the example of Hastings in East Sussex as

“a borough full of Airbnbs and Londoners moving in and pushing up house prices”.

Hastings is spending nearly half its annual budget on temporary accommodation. The council leader has called for a Ukrainian refugee-style scheme to house local people in spare rooms.

The director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies has indicated that house price rises since rates were last set mean that the average property in the Westminster council area is taxed at 0.06% of its value, while a far cheaper property in Hartlepool is taxed at 1.3%. We all know that it would be a brave Government that did something about rateable values.

What difference do the various government schemes make? The Home Builders Federation has indicated that the closure of the Help to Buy equity loan scheme has exacerbated the challenge facing aspiring home owners. It states that the scheme supported a third of a million first-time buyer households to purchase a new-build home with an equity loan. It claims that it produced “a doubling in housing supply” and generated an estimated £65 billion in economic activity. What it does not say was that Help to Buy benefited those who could probably have afforded a house anyway, and the resulting inflation of house prices made it impossible for the lower-paid to put a foot on the housing ladder. This was taxpayers’ money, which would have been better spent on social housing.

My only question to the Minister is about the First Homes scheme, which was launched in 2021. Is there any information she can give us about how the scheme is going, and is there any consideration of expanding it?

Finally, I mentioned to the noble Lord, Lord Young, the other day that I am a fan of “Homes Under the Hammer” on television, and I like to think I can guess the price of a house anywhere in the UK. Key factors are whether it is in the north or south, whether it has transport links, the presence or absence of higher education institutions and the increasing numbers of younger entrepreneurs in the south who are buying houses in the north to refurbish and rent or sell off —or “flip it” in the jargon. Skills shortages and the steep cost of raw materials are slowing things down. Solving the issue of housing for young people is not a one-dimensional issue, therefore, and the Government’s record on local government, infrastructure skills, support for refurbishment schemes and controlling the cost of living is pretty woeful. This debate is an important opportunity to air these matters.

Photo of Baroness Thornhill Baroness Thornhill Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Housing) 4:24, 14 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy for her contribution. I know how she feels: when one is speaking after the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, and with the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, and the noble Lord, Lord Best, in the wings, one knows that all the bases will not only have been covered but covered very well.

One of the most powerful cultural myths over the past century has been the belief that if you work hard, you will earn enough to buy yourself a house and start a family. For a long time, it held true. Between the end of the First World War and the turn of the millennium, rates of home ownership climbed rapidly, topping out at about 70%, as young adults flew the parental nest and set up homes of their own. It was what we did.

We now know that in most respects this is no longer true; the myth has been well and truly busted. There is a powerful and growing body of evidence from a wide range of academics, think tanks and charities working in this area that the opposite is in fact true; the breakdown of the housing conveyor belt has already happened, and is already causing huge and diverse impacts. Studies show that the inability to afford a home causes people to postpone starting a family or not to have children at all. High housing costs also divert individuals away from productive places and activities, and dramatically increase inequality in wealth and between regions. Housing affordability—the ratio of what you earn to what you can afford to rent or buy—was last as bad as it is now when Queen Victoria was on the Throne.

In 2021, the Resolution Foundation did a crucial stocktake of generational differences, and found that millennials were far less likely than previous generations to own their own home and more likely to find themselves in the private rented sector. They are the first generation who are in a worse position than previous cohorts in terms of home ownership, obtaining social housing or finding a secure, affordable, private rented home wherever they might live. It makes depressing reading.

Interestingly, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the biggest shift has been with millennials on middle incomes—the people who hitherto would have expected to own their own home. Student loans, high deposits and higher interest rates have locked many into the rental market. The sector has seen increasing rents, making it difficult to save a deposit, as the percentage of income taken up with rent also increases. Recent data shows that people under 30 are spending more than 30% of their gross income on rent, more than any other group—30% being defined officially as unaffordable.

This has put pressure on the rental market; one estate agent described it to me as a beauty parade. Landlords can and do pick and choose; in the circumstances, who can blame them? Rents are rising and demand is growing. A recent Generation Rent survey showed that bidding wars and mass viewings are much more common. An anecdotal comment from estate agents is, “There’s always competition for rentals now”.

At the same time, we also hear that landlords are leaving the sector, or will leave if the Government remove Section 21 evictions. But are they? We have mixed messages. It is clear that they are moving to more lucrative short-term lettings such as Airbnb. The question for policymakers is: how do we actively incentivise landlords to move from short-term letting back to long-term, more secure tenures? I believe that this needs both carrot and stick, but I feel that government policy is concentrating on the stick. All the trends show that we need more private rented accommodation.

If even renting is not an option, young adults are back at home trying to save for a deposit, which in some areas is likely to take many years. This figure has also increased significantly. Results from the 2021 census found that more adults were living with parents in England and Wales than a decade previously. The ONS reported in 2021 that this equated to 4.9 million young adults—dare I say, young voters.

For me, a worrying trend is that we now seem to have a divided population of young people, and the inequalities between them are growing, as is their discontent. If you live in an affluent family, you will be fine. You will probably be helped with your deposit and regard it simply as getting your inheritance early. For those comfortably off, you might take equity release to give the youngsters their deposit or raid your retirement cushion that you have worked so hard to save, which now is not looking quite so plump.

Time was when low-waged young couples, such as the bus driver—my dad—married to the care assistant, might have been eligible for social housing, but no longer. The reduction in socially rented homes over decades has meant that a secure home to rent and put down roots in the community where you were raised is no longer possible for many, and it has changed the nature of social housing. In my home town of Preston, people were proud to have a council house. If you were on the Larches Estate, close to a beautiful park and rubbing shoulders with the posh parts of Ashton, you had hit the jackpot of affordable rent and secure tenure.

In a recent government survey of tenants, it was shocking to see that tenants now feel shame and stigma for being a social housing tenant. Bold solutions are needed. There is widespread clamour for more social and affordable homes; I would add shared ownership homes. In my view, mixed tenures and mixed estates are a positive way forward. Economic think tanks have also waded into the debate, pointing out the economic benefits of a significant increase in building these homes. It is win-win.

What worries me is that, shockingly, young people are the group most likely to experience homelessness. According to Centrepoint, more and more young people are approaching their local council for housing: 112,000 in 2021, an increase of 8% on the previous year. The data shows that unless they are afforded priority status by the local authority—for example, because they have come out of care—young people are frequently locked out of an already limited social housing supply. This means that they have to turn to sofa surfing, the unaffordable private rented sector, temporary accommodation or risking homelessness.

Government, housing providers and charities must work together in the long term to build a lasting coalition that aims to reinvigorate the social rented market and deliver new youth-specific housing products, which include one- and two-bedroom flats. My residents in Watford used to say, “Who wants to live in them?” Noticeably, as soon as they are erected, they are all filled. This should also be part of any mixed-tenure community.

Simply building more homes is not the answer. We need to build more social, affordable and shared ownership homes. The current emphasis on targets and numbers is demonstrably not working. Lots of expensive market-rate housing will not bring housing costs down to an affordable level for millions of people trapped in poverty by sky-high rents. Politicians are in a target-setting bidding war which perpetuates the myth that we can build our way out of this if only the planning system would improve, or this or that. But ramping up housebuilding will take many years to deliver and many more years to impact on house prices. In reality, nobody who wants a home wants that to happen, and the large housebuilders’ financial model will not let that happen. They build what they know they can sell in places where they know it will sell, not where it is needed or at a price that locals can afford.

We need to build and fund this housing differently, with much more diversity. We need to be braver and bolder and at least try to take the public with us and change the conversation towards those who are the future. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Young: in my experience, when it comes to opportunistic campaigning, no party has a monopoly on exploiting nimbyism.

My fear is that we have created a whole generation who increasingly feel politically isolated because their needs are not being met and their aspirations are unfulfilled. In short, they are being ignored by politicians because they are not home owners, and it is home owners who vote. They are yimbys, but the system forces politicians to listen to the nimbys, so no one is hearing their voice. Politically, that is a dangerous place to be. That is a subject worthy of its own debate.

Photo of Lord Lilley Lord Lilley Ceidwadwyr 4:35, 14 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, on whose remarks I will comment a bit later. Above all, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Young on securing this debate on one of the most important topics affecting the country.

We live in a property-owning democracy. That has been the objective of the Conservative Party, and probably shared by other parties, for many decades. The main form of property that most people can hope to own is their own home. We aspire to be a home-owning democracy, and we were achieving that. Before the First World War, only 15% of the population owned their own home. That rose to 70% by 2001. However, that was the peak, and from there it has declined to about 60%. Whereas each generation had been becoming home owners younger, the trend has reversed even more strongly: in 1997, 55% of 25 to 34 year-olds had got on to the home owner ladder, but that was down to 35% two decades later in 2017.

It is not just that young people cannot afford to buy. Many cannot afford to rent either, because rents and prices are inevitably linked and both reflect shortage. In the last two decades, the number of 25 to 34 year-olds living with parents has risen by 1 million. One-quarter of people in that age group still live at home with their parents. It is not surprising that, if young people cannot hope to join the property-owning democracy, they should begin to lose faith in democracy, which is what we hear from the opinion polls.

Let us be clear: this is not a problem that can be solved by manipulating mortgage terms, freezing rents or tinkering with the terms of tenure. That is just rearranging the deck chairs on the “Titanic”. As long as there is an imbalance between the number of dwellings and the number of people wanting to live in separate households, some of them are going to be disappointed. They will have to share properties, by staying at home with their parents, cramming together in bedsits or subdividing existing dwellings into smaller sub-units. We already have the smallest average size of home of any country in Europe, and we will be making them smaller. All the measures that I have heard about so far in this debate, such as a different form of tenure, would help one group, but if you help one group to get some of a fixed supply of housing then that means other people are not getting it. It does not solve the problem.

What about the long term? We had a debate on 29 February in the Moses Room on a long-term strategy for housing. Apart from my noble friends Lord Jackson and Lord Bailey—who is not here today—every single contributor said that their long-term strategy was to have a long-term strategy. They did not tell us what it would consist of, and it certainly did not deal with the problem.

All those speakers reminded me—I make no apology for repeating this—of the challenge that is laid down by Zen masters to their disciples. The Zen master asks his disciples, “Describe the sound of one hand clapping”. All these debates are the sound of one hand clapping. We heard the sound of supply—we will allocate it differently or even build a few more, although of course we all admit to being nimbys—but no mention of demand. I am afraid it is a simple matter of arithmetic. The supply is not adequate. If there are, say, 30 million dwellings and 33 million wannabe households, then 3 million wannabe households will not be able to live in separate dwellings; they will have to share, subdivide or stay at home. There are two possible solutions: build more homes or stop adding to the number of households. Those are the only two solutions which will resolve it in the long term.

Before the 2015 election, I was challenged by my local Liberal Democrats to attend a public meeting in Harpenden and oppose the subdivision of gardens and people building extra houses in their gardens. They had a public meeting, so I went along. They had a big, wonderful slogan that said: “Harpenden homes for Harpenden people”. I asked the audience of several hundred people how many were born in Harpenden. There were 14 of them. “All right,” I said, “You are the only people the Lib Dems will house and the other 180 had better leave”. We must not go for these cheap nimbyist slogans.

In the 2015 election, I was presented with an ultimatum by the civic society in Harpenden—much influenced by the Lib Dems—that, unless I opposed all new housebuilding in and around Harpenden, they would either run a candidate against me or support any candidate who would make such a promise. I naturally refused, but I did attend a big public meeting, where I passionately argued that it is a moral issue. We have to build more houses, including in places such as Harpenden. If we do not, then young people in this country will not be able to get on the housing ladder and our children and grandchildren will not be able to live nearer to us than several hundred miles away, such as in the Orkneys.

I began studying this issue back at the beginning of this century because my constituency and all constituencies in Hertfordshire were continually facing higher and higher targets for the number of homes they had to build. That struck me as very odd, because the number of people being born in Hertfordshire was less than the number of those dying, so the population should have been going down. Of course, it was not going down because people were moving out of London, which they were doing because people were moving into London. All 17 statements made by the Government on the subject said or implied that they were moving into the south-east of England from the rest of the United Kingdom. When I looked at the figures, I saw they were actually moving out of the south-east of England because prices were so high and they had to move further away from London. The inflow was all from abroad, but no one dared mention it.

At that stage, we were importing the equivalent of the population of Birmingham every decade. I wondered how we would house an extra Birmingham and still provide extra homes for our own young people and people born here. A few years later, it was the population of Birmingham every five years and then every three years. Over the last two years alone, we have imported the net equivalent of the population of Birmingham. Does anyone seriously imagine that we can meet their needs and the accumulated, pent-up and unsatisfied needs of the young people for whom we have not built any homes over the last few decades? We cannot. But will anyone in this debate mention it? No. Perhaps on this side there will be some. I would be delighted if they did.

There will not be any mention of it on the other side; there never is. They should be deeply ashamed, because it is such a serious problem. Unless they can explain and justify why they support continuing mass immigration before they have met the needs of the people of all colours, races and sizes who are already here—who were born and grew up here—they should be deeply ashamed. I fear that, once again, we will have a debate that, with the exception of noble Lords on this side, reflects the sound of one hand clapping—some talk about supply, but nothing about demand. Until we do something about demand, we have an insoluble problem.

Photo of Lord Best Lord Best Crossbench 4:43, 14 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, not just for securing this debate and getting it off to a brilliant start, but for his decades of highly distinguished policy action in addressing key housing issues. As usual, I agree with his words of wisdom so eloquently delivered today.

This debate is very timely: the housing crisis for those with nowhere to go represents a national emergency that demands our urgent attention. It is gratifying to hear just how much we all agree on the urgency of the situation. I declare my housing interests, as on the register. Currently, I chair the Devon Housing Commission. Noble Lords may think that acute housing shortages are a problem for London and the big cities, but they could hardly be more extreme than in the beautiful county of Devon. Fewer and fewer young people brought up in the county are finding it possible to buy a home of their own—and, over recent months, they have found it almost impossible to secure a rented home they can afford. The numbers of young households having to be placed in unsuitable temporary accommodation have increased by 100% and more over the last couple of years. Nationally, the dire situation is replicated in every locality, and there are now over 140,000 children in insecure, often highly unsuitable, temporary accommodation. This is becoming an increasingly significant part of the financial troubles afflicting so many local authorities.

A fortnight ago, many of your Lordships expressed support across party lines for a national strategy to get us out of this mess, as was championed in the Church of England’s report last year. A national strategy would set a broad vision for ending the housing crisis. It could be brought together and sustained over time by a statutory national housing committee, along the lines of the Climate Change Committee. The new committee would hold government—and, no doubt, a succession of Housing Ministers—to account.

In supporting this call for creating and monitoring a long-term housing strategy, I suggest that policymakers must prioritise the housing needs of younger households in two overarching ways: first, of course, by increasing supply overall and, secondly, by ensuring that the supply reaches those with modest incomes. Supply is the problem—

Photo of Lord Lilley Lord Lilley Ceidwadwyr

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Will this body dealing with a long-term strategy also consider the demand for housing? Will it have any control over the massive increase in demand coming from abroad? If not, what purpose will it serve?

Photo of Lord Best Lord Best Crossbench

Is this a debate about immigration or housing? There are two debates here. We are dealing with people who live and breathe and need a home, whom we face and talk to and meet on a daily basis. We are doing something for them, and questions of immigration are for a different debate.

It is unsurprising that there is not enough to go around when the Centre for Cities has found Great Britain to have a housing deficit of 4.3 million homes, compared with the European average. Our current arrangements for achieving a sufficient supply—at least meeting the Government’s target of 300,000 homes a year—have failed. The model used for the last 30 years has relied on a handful of volume housebuilders. These developers, irrespective of the delays caused by ridiculously underresourced planning departments, will build out only at a pace that ensures that prices need never be reduced. This means cutting production now, when higher interest rates have curbed price rises, just when we need to ratchet up supply.

We are all familiar with the well-known flaws of the housebuilder model: poor design and quality; betrayal of promises for affordable housing, green spaces and amenities; building on greenfields and avoiding brownfield sites; failing to train the workforce or to innovate; et cetera. The most recent Competition and Markets Authority report is the latest voice to support the quite different approach promoted by the Letwin review. Sir Oliver advocated that, to speed up and deliver the homes we need, local authority-owned but arm’s-length development corporations should be created, with CPO—compulsory purchase—powers to assemble and buy land on reasonable terms. These corporations would adopt a comprehensive master plan, borrow privately, fund the infrastructure and parcel out sites to social landlords, SME builders, specialist players and so on. In other words, to boost the quantity and quality of supply, Letwin recommends establishing publicly accountable development bodies that take back control from the oligopoly of major developers.

Let me turn to the ways of ensuring that the supply of new homes benefits those on average and below-average incomes—the half of the population who currently can access only a fraction of new housing supply. Top of the list comes direct development of so-called “social rented housing”: this part of the housing mix has been in decline for years. Social housing is down from 34% of the nation’s homes to just 17% because of sales of council housing and the low-level programme of new build.

On 6 February, when Secretary of State Michael Gove appeared before the Lords Select Committee on the Built Environment, he said:

“We need to aim to have a net addition of 30,000 for social rent every year”.

He noted that some would regard this as unambitious, but it sets a far higher target for social rent—for the housing associations and councils—than has prevailed in recent years. What is needed is government investment to actually make this happen.

Currently, the sector faces headwinds from higher interest rates, building safety remedial work, the decarbonisation and upgrading of older stock, and management and maintenance costs rising by more than rents. But this country now has a highly professional social housing sector that is very fully regulated and can respond to the opportunities whenever government comes forward with the necessary resources.

Increasing supply by building new homes is going to take decades to achieve availability and affordability for all. In the meantime, we need a shortcut both to tackle the temporary accommodation emergency and, over time, to enlarge the social housing pool. The Affordable Housing Commission recommended a national housing conversion fund for the purchase and modernisation of run-down, privately rented accommodation. This fund would pay for itself by avoiding the huge costs of temporary accommodation in the private sector and, in the long term, would help a rebalancing between the much-diminished social sector and the greatly expanded private rented sector. I detect signs that the Government are recognising the value of this approach: a fund mostly for refugees is operating on this basis.

Investment in social housing—including the regeneration of some existing council estates and older properties—has a big payback in reducing health inequalities, alleviating fuel poverty, saving housing benefit and homelessness costs, cutting carbon emissions and supporting education and employment objectives. The National Housing Federation’s latest report shows how investing in a really major expansion of social housing is self-financing in a relatively short timescale, so boosting affordable social housing—largely ignored in the Budget—does represent incredible value for public money.

All this is not to say that the desire of younger households for home ownership should be ignored. Owner occupation means a secure home where you can put down roots and do your own thing. Acquiring and accumulating a capital asset for your later life is a big bonus, but, most significantly, your housing costs as an owner will reduce over time as your mortgage is paid off, whereas, as a renter, your housing costs will keep rising inexorably. No wonder the Department for Work and Pensions is expressing alarm at the prospect of a massive increase in housing benefit payments when a much bigger proportion of renters retires and their incomes fall, while rents keep going up.

How can the drop in home ownership levels be reversed so fewer people fall on the wrong side of the dividing line between tenants and home owners that can last a lifetime? This inequality in life chances is particularly unfair for those young people who are paying rents in excess of the cost of a mortgage but who cannot also afford to raise tens of thousands of pounds for a deposit without parental funding.

Shared ownership—with some important tweaks—provides one solution. Government mortgage guarantees can be effective and are almost cost-free, although the latest arrears figures, following interest rate rises, show some concerning increases. To underpin first-time buying in these difficult times, restoring the safety net of support for mortgage interest to its former, more generous position would be sensible.

Meanwhile, there are huge advantages for young people of planners requiring a proportion of new homes to be designed for older people. By addressing the pent-up demand for attractive, affordable homes for downsizers—“right-sizers”—two goals are met. First, older people can move to warm, accessible, convenient and companionable accommodation, achieving huge savings for the NHS and for adult care services. Secondly, this triggers a whole chain of moves, making family homes, not least precious social housing for families, available for the next generation, helping the young people with whom we are particularly concerned in this debate.

Polls tell us that almost two-thirds of 18 to 34 year-olds say that they are more likely to support a political party that invests more in affordable and social housing. Manifesto writers, take note. Let all of us in this House recognise the crisis facing younger people today and resolve to be part of the solutions we all want.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Ceidwadwyr 4:56, 14 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, I speak as an observer rather than as an expert. Your Lordships will be aware that I do defence, engineering, transport and things like that and do not normally get involved in housing, so it indicates that something is going seriously wrong if I have to intervene.

The purpose and effect of the UK’s planning system is to resist development, keep the rich rich, the poor poor, and the rest where they are. Before explaining why that might be, I should declare an interest as my wife is on the planning committee of the local parish council, and it is her duty to operate the system as she currently finds it.

In my opinion, since 2010 the Conservative Party has absolutely skewered the younger generations by making it impossible for them to buy their own house. Where they can, they must take out a mortgage with an imprudent multiple of salary and far too long to pay, as many noble Lords have already observed. Very frequently, they must rely on the bank of mum and dad to find the deposit and keep the payments affordable.

In the Thatcher era, a property-owning democracy was created, as my noble friend Lord Lilley, among others, observed. Even people with modest occupations could own their own house, and ordinary families could develop deep financial resources as a result—I think the noble Lord, Lord Best, touched on that. That ability to have deep financial resources was no longer confined to rich, landed classes.

We have now created a precariat. Apart from the employment uncertainties, many of our people cannot be confident of their accommodation as they are obliged to rent. In some cases, they are discouraged from working. As the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, touched on, there is an effect on the fertility rate, because they simply cannot have a family. It is no good my noble friend the Minister pointing to the sticking-plaster policy regarding Section 21 evictions, because it will probably make matters worse and not address the underlying problem of the lack of housing.

We have artificially restricted the supply of housing by means of the planning system and increased housing demand by means of immigration, but done nothing to restrict the supply of finance. What did noble Lords think was going to happen with the affordability of housing, even for people with good-quality employment? The planning system has become increasingly difficult to navigate and generally requires very deep pockets. This is not a problem for big organisations—ultimately they can appeal to the Secretary of State regarding their development, they can go to judicial review and they have all those tools—but for small developers it is hopeless. Therefore, the planning system keeps the rich rich.

I apologise for going slightly off-piste. There are multiple causes of our inability to improve the UK’s productivity, but one must surely be the malign effects of our planning system. Not only do we not build the housing that we need but we do not build, or allow to have built, sufficient small industrial premises. I live between Petersfield and Portsmouth. A few years ago I wanted to buy a small industrial unit of 1,300 square feet, below the small business exemption for rates. I needed it for my charitable engineering activities. I had the cash in the bank to pay for it, but I had to give up because there was nothing available to buy within 15 miles of where I lived. Interestingly, I detected from the Land Registry that a unit in a nearby industrial estate had been sold but had never even come on the open market. It all seemed to be by word of mouth.

When I look at SMEs local to home, I see that they are packed into units that are far too small and therefore internally poorly laid out. Furthermore, they are unable to invest in more equipment because they lack the space. This means that certain production processes must be undertaken elsewhere, but that uses transport with its associated emissions and other adverse effects.

Following on from the remarks by my noble friend Lord Lilley, we are increasing our population by about 1 million people per full Parliament, but we are steadfastly refusing to bring more and sufficient land into development, both for housing and for industrial use. It is all down to planning. The noble Lord, Lord Best, who I hold in very high regard, was very keen to keep this debate about housing and not immigration, but the fact of the matter is that the two are inextricably linked. If we keep increasing the population by 1 million every few years, we are bound to need more accommodation, both for people to live in and for industry. There is no getting away from it. It is no good talking about brownfield sites. The old industrial sites have already been turned into retail parks and housing estates up and down the country, but retail parks do not provide high added-value jobs, nor opportunities for improving productivity.

With all this, no wonder the support for my party among graduates of less than 50 years of age is apparently in single figures. I am very pleased to see that the party opposite regularly promises to reform the planning system. I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, will be able to say a bit more about this. My noble friend the Minister will tell us what the Conservative Government have been doing to improve the planning system. The output that I have seen is our local plan. That plan seeks to measure the requirement for land for housing and employment, and then possibly meet the requirement—but, of course, it never does. We certainly never hear about any desire to create a slight glut of housing or employment premises. If there was a slight surplus of both housing and industrial units, employees and businesses could be ideally accommodated because something would be available immediately when required. Much has been said about affordable housing. What would happen if, in any particular area, there was a slight glut of up-market and more profitable-to-build housing? It is obvious that developers would move on to building affordable housing without any intervention from government or the planning system.

I go back to where I started. The purpose and effect of the UK’s planning system is to resist development and keep the rich rich, the poor poor, and the rest where they are.

Photo of Baroness Valentine Baroness Valentine Crossbench 5:04, 14 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lord for introducing this debate. I have been aware of housing challenges, particularly in London and Blackpool, for a long time, but the subject of this debate has encouraged me to look more intensely at the challenges facing the young and at the associated need for wraparound support for our most vulnerable. I work part-time for Business in the Community, focusing on regenerating forgotten places, and have served on the Peabody board.

Let me begin with the problem. There is a crisis in the provision of temporary accommodation. This adds to the financial woes of our local authorities, which are unfairly bearing the brunt of cost of living and post-Covid mental health challenges, with too little money. I have been conscious for a long time of the need to build more houses and bring costs down in London, and I am more newly aware of the shocking state of the housing available to poorer people in Blackpool. This failure to achieve both quantity and quality, as ever, hits the poorest in our societies worst. The latest data from Demos shows that 130,000 children are living in temporary accommodation, double the number in 2011. Councils in London are spending £90 million per month on temporary accommodation as a result of increased numbers and inflation, up 40% from last year. Of these London homeless people, roughly half are children—equivalent to at least one child in every classroom. A particular concern are care leavers, of whom around one-third become homeless in their first three years.

What does this mean for children living in substandard or temporary accommodation? These young people will have disrupted school lives and lower educational attainment, as around half of homeless children have to move school. Young homeless will then be significantly less likely to have a job—around half of Centrepoint users are NEET. Life expectancy will be drastically reduced, given the prevalence of mental and physical health problems. According to Shelter, over half of parents report that temporary accommodation is harming their children’s health. Research has shown that nearly half of the young homeless have mental health challenges.

In Claremont ward in Blackpool, the concentration of families in HMOs converted from old B&Bs gives rise to a subculture where, for instance, many youngsters will not leave their bedrooms post-Covid. There are shocking health statistics, partly caused by the quality of accommodation. In a ward of just 9,000 people, 2,500 have mental health problems, 1,400 have respiratory issues, 900 have diabetes and 600 have asthma. Blackpool hospital reserves 19 beds every single day for unplanned admissions from Claremont, costing £11 million a year.

At this point, I would like to call out the Department for Work and Pensions. I have a great deal of respect for much of its work; for example, I have worked jointly with the department on careers fairs. In Blackpool, however, two things are wrong. First, housing benefit is paid to landlords whose housing is slum standard, with some failing category 1 standards, which means risk of death. Secondly, the help given to jobseekers is given in person, but these youngsters will only engage online at the moment and the DWP does not offer an online interview option for them.

So where are the glimmers of hope? First, there needs to be an urgent focus on providing long-term funding to local authorities to deal with the temporary accommodation crisis in a way that is cheaper, better quality and better suited to the inhabitants. Part of this needs to be linked to wraparound services for these youngsters, who will otherwise end up costing the public purse a great deal more—quite apart from the moral case for doing so. Too often, the housing crisis and challenges in public services are spoken about as separate policy issues, but vulnerable young people and families are in such a difficult housing situation that it has a negative impact on their quality of life and increases their need for other services. We have gained a lot from specialisation of our public services; practice has become more professional and more evidence led. Bradford, in particular, has an impressive research project called Born in Bradford, which follows 13,500 families over 10 years. We know, however, that a failure to join up public services is costing the Government between £1.5 billion and £5 billion a year, according to Demos.

Right to Succeed works in left-behind communities to support the transformation of children and family services, bringing together services to focus on the most vulnerable families. In the process, it becomes clear that different services have different addresses for the same family, but Right to Succeed now has an evidence base for the success of this approach.

In this vein, I would like to mention Element, the social enterprise founded in London by my daughter, and Positive Transitions Pathway in Blackpool. Both these approaches involve focusing on the needs of the care leaver, providing life coaching and being available for support for as long as it takes. Blackpool Council also provides tailored tenancy management. The Element experience of care-leaver accommodation is that it comes in all shapes and sizes; some is public sector, some third and some private, and the quality differs between different providers across all sectors. The lack of regulation of private landlords tends to provide less good accommodation and weaker support. I am aware that some supported accommodation in Blackpool provides feeble support, despite being paid to provide support. In both places, there is an urgent need to introduce decent home standards in the private sector, especially if they are being paid by the public sector for that accommodation.

Let me end on some high points. Following what is known as a “seeing is believing” visit to Sheffield last year, led by Business in the Community, IKEA has offered to provide beds for the hundreds of local children who do not even have a bed to sleep in. Here are two quotes from the youngsters themselves. Fatima, a care leaver, says:

“Before going into Element, things were very difficult. I was struggling with idea of socialising with other people. However, from the beginning, I felt at ease and loved spending time with some amazing staff and young people. Element really helped build my confidence in speaking in front of people. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them”.

Finally, a young Blackpool homeless person said:

“My Positive Transitions officer has helped with loads of different things, and also encouraged and supported me to apply for an internship. I got the job, which has made a massive difference to my finances. I have been able to pass a training course and get a small motorbike. They really helped my transition to adulthood and made living alone a lot less overwhelming”.

Photo of Lord Jackson of Peterborough Lord Jackson of Peterborough Ceidwadwyr 5:12, 14 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, it is a pleasure to participate in this debate, and I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham, whom I have known for over 30 years, for his persistent and indefatigable approach to campaigning on housing.

I will talk about two specific macroeconomic societal issues, and then focus on planning and some possible solutions. I will talk first about quantitative easing—I draw noble Lords’ attention to an excellent article in the New Statesman of 1 March—and how it impacts young people. Essentially, the policy of quantitative easing, developed by the coalition Government in 2013 and euphemistically described by George Osborne as “active monetary policy”, actually created an asset price boom and had very significant distributional implications, making asset owners richer, as my noble friend Earl Attlee said, and leaving many young people locked out and relatively poorer. There is a reason, of course, why the polls show that only 8% of 18 to 24 year-olds intend to vote Conservative at the election. You cannot extol the virtues of capitalism if your target market cannot eventually own capital.

In 1979, the right-to-buy policy of the Conservative Party gave ordinary working people a real stake in their future and those of their families and communities. Over the last 10 to 14 years, we have failed to develop policies which similarly deliver for working people. We have seen a collapse in home ownership over the period of the last two or three Parliaments.

On the second issue, immigration, we absolutely have to look at demand. I am afraid that I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Best. Of course, I pay tribute to his expertise. If we are going to have a debate based on empirical evidence and honesty, and in good faith, we cannot ignore the implications of, and the massive changes wrought by, uncontrolled, unfettered immigration, whether it is illegal or, more likely, legal.

Last year, we built 204,000 homes against a target of 300,000. The French regularly build 400,000 to 500,000 homes. The Migration Advisory Committee says that a 1% rise in population generates a 1% rise in house prices. Uncontrolled immigration has a big effect on the rental market too. Net migration of 672,000 is something that cannot just be dismissed from the housing debate. In 15 years, that trend—

Photo of Baroness Valentine Baroness Valentine Crossbench

On the subject of migration, as far as I recall, a very large number of migrants are students. I wonder whether the noble Lord would like to comment on student housing in that context?

Photo of Lord Jackson of Peterborough Lord Jackson of Peterborough Ceidwadwyr

I am going to develop my argument in terms of numbers. We are looking at an increase to the population of 6.6 million people, to 74 million by 2036. The indicative figures are that in 15 years, we are going to have to build another 5.7 million homes, or 550,000 homes per annum.

In London, 20 people are chasing every flat. Some 40% of foreign-born individuals are in the private rented sector, as are 75% of new migrants, and 48% of all social housing in London is headed by someone who was not born in the UK. That is an issue that goes to the heart of fairness. I do not think it is defensible, and it is certainly not sustainable. It is about equity and community cohesion.

I want to talk about planning. I believe that the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023, although very much lauded, was a missed opportunity. The promise contained in the consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework of 2022 did not come to fruition; it was a missed opportunity. As my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham said, the Government capitulated, regrettably, to the nimby, short-termist tendency in the Conservative Party. Robert Colville of the Centre for Policy Studies was quite right when he described that decision, or the decision to reject any housing targets, as “selfish and wicked”.

We have a situation in which scores of local planning authorities have paused, reviewed or abandoned their local plans. That has rendered obsolete previous commitments to local housing targets. It has given a green light to planning committees to block development across the country. The five-year land supply test was dumped, green-belt reviews stopped, and the housing delivery test watered down. This has exacerbated the problems of capacity: many principal authority planning departments have a shortage of well-qualified, experienced and commercially savvy planners in particular, and of properly resourced planning departments.

Reference has been made to the CMA report into the state of the housebuilding industry, published on 28 February. I am glad to say that it put to rest the persistent accusation that major housebuilders are land banking; there was no empirical evidence to support that. But even if they were, surely the broken planning system is logically inherently to blame. The CMA actually said that

“the planning system is exerting a significant downward pressure on the overall number of planning permissions being granted across Great Britain … insufficient to support housebuilding at the level required to meet government targets and … assessed need”.

It made particular reference to the impact on small and medium-sized builders.

I share with the House the observations of the former Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, James Palmer, who was also formerly the leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council. He says, quite rightly:

“Over the past 50 years the Local Plan system (or derivations of it) has failed to deliver the number of homes needed in England, yet we steadfastly refuse to change the way we plan for growth. Local Plans can create the illusion of promoting growth while simultaneously restricting housing development. A carefully drawn line in a town hall can turn landowners into lottery winners. Where developers don’t bring forward housing, landbanks arise. When landowners decide not to sell, new lines need to be drawn. What’s more, local authorities need only throw a cursory glance at what their neighbours are doing, which leads to disjointed and incoherent planning across wider geographies”.

That is a very important point.

The construction industry is still suffering a very difficult hangover from Covid, the Ukraine war, the rising costs of materials and energy, higher interest rates, and skills shortages. In my own area of the east of England, 17% of all business is construction-related—with £18 billion of output, according to the Construction Industry Training Board. Policy changes, especially in planning, have slowed down the construction of new houses, and this was predicted by the Home Builders Federation in March 2022. Professor Noble Francis, the economics director at the Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction, commented:

“There was a sharp fall in house building in December 2023 as house builders continued to focus on cost minimisation and completions for the subdued level of demand rather than starting new developments after the rise in mortgage rates in 2023 that priced out many new buyers, especially first-time buyers”.

Another issue, which we have discussed in your Lordships’ House on a number of occasions, is quango overreach. As your Lordships will know, in August 2023, the Government announced that they would legislate on the impact of defective EU laws intrinsic in the nutrient neutrality regulations. Despite a promise of a £280 million investment over seven years to ameliorate these issues, protect precious habitats, tackle the issue of run-off from agriculture and upgrade wastewater works, your Lordships’ House decided to kibosh that legislation and force the Government to abandon it. We are now in a position where 120,000 homes, according to the Home Builders Federation, have been subject to a moratorium on new builds. That means an unelected and unaccountable quango, Natural England, has stopped 41,000 new houses being built in Norfolk and 18,000 in Somerset, just as an example. In what other advanced, liberal democracy would such a ridiculous and incoherent policy be tolerated?

I welcome some of the things the Government have done in the long-term plan for housing announced last month around SME builders; refocusing on repurposing public sector land and brownfield development; giving greater weight in the NPPF to the benefits of housing delivery in areas of residential housing shortages; and other areas, such as permitted development. But I am not convinced that it is radical enough.

We need to look again at residential estates’ investment trusts. We need tax breaks for supported living for older people. We need to repurpose planning fees to sufficiently resource planning departments. We need to bring back local plans that are up to date to deliver housing. We need to introduce a presumption in favour of development in small sites. We need to abolish stamp duty for all purchases of homes with an EPC rating of B or above. Housing is a national emergency. We also need a Cabinet Minister specifically focusing on housing, as well as a housing ministry. This and previous Governments have, regrettably, failed young people, but it is not too late to begin to develop a vision and an ambition to deliver both for them and for our country more widely.

Photo of Lord Shipley Lord Shipley Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol 5:24, 14 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, I pay tribute to the enormous contribution that the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, has made to the cause of housing over so many years. I jotted down a number of things that he said, and I will mention the top three in order of importance.

First, watch the Treasury like a hawk. For issues such as how you convert the very high amount paid to the private rented sector in housing benefit to construct homes for social rent, which would be a much better use of the money and increase the housing supply, that kind of debate needs to be had with the Treasury. Secondly, the best way to help younger buyers is to help older buyers—that is so true, for this should not become an intergenerational issue. Thirdly, we need more planners. That is quite clear. It must be done through enabling local planning authorities to charge and set their own fees. The noble Lord will remember the debates we had on the then levelling-up Bill, when the Government gave a little ground but nothing like enough to deliver what is needed.

A number of things have been said about net immigration by two or three noble Lords. What is being said is a misconception, because our housing problem has been developing over 30 years and the increase in immigration to its current level is comparatively recent. There is much published evidence to show that, over the last 30 years, we have built around 2 million homes too few. There has been a spike in net immigration figures in the last couple of years, one of the key reasons for which is the fact that the Government insist on counting overseas students in them. Many of those overseas students—

Photo of Lord Lilley Lord Lilley Ceidwadwyr

They also count them when they go out. So, if they come in and go out, they account for zero in total.

Photo of Lord Shipley Lord Shipley Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

The noble Lord is absolutely correct, but the Government, through deliberate policy over the last few years, have been increasing the number of overseas students. The result is that there are more coming in than going out. Statistically, the number is currently in decline, as we were told in a debate a few days ago, so I think he needs to take a slightly longer-term view. As the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, said, many of those students are in the student accommodation units that have proliferated in many of our university towns and cities. When we debate housing, we need to be a little more measured about what the cause and effect actually are.

A key reason why the population is rising is that people are living longer. Another reason why we need more houses is that our housing stock is poorer than those of a number of other countries. We absolutely have to increase the supply overall, as the noble Lord, Lord Best, said. I am not sure whether the Centre for Cities estimate that we have a deficit of 4.3 million homes is right—it may be.

This debate is about the first-time buyer. I remember owning my own home at the age of 25. My wife and I bought our first home on a 95% mortgage, worth 2.5 times my income. Many more young people were able to buy or to secure rented accommodation at an affordable price in those days. That is what this debate is about: in recent years, the number of young adults who own their own home has fallen. As we have heard, more young adults are living at home. Too many are priced out of ownership and into the high rents of the private rented sector, because investment in social housing has been so low. Had those homes been properly replaced between the Government’s decision to sell council homes and now, we would have many more homes than we currently do.

Housing has become so expensive at a time when incomes are under greater stress. The number of first-time buyers fell to a 10-year low in 2023, partly due to the cost of mortgages. I find these facts disturbing. It is particularly disturbing when you realise that the people who are suffering most are those young people who are not graduates. A lot of research evidence has been published on this. We have to increase the supply side, and in that the noble Lord, Lord Best, is absolutely correct.

The Government have tried a number of initiatives that we should support. I think we need more long-term, fixed-rate mortgages and more gradual home ownership schemes, and not just for new build. It is a worry that last week’s Budget lacked so much real substance on housing. It did not address the basic problem of high house prices caused by high land costs leading to insufficient supply. We have had this shortfall in new homes being built year after year, with the Government counting conversions from business premises to homes as new homes. These are often flats and quite small. The real problem is the need for more homes that families can use.

There has been a lot of discussion around brownfield sites. I have believed for a long time that we have to move to a brownfield presumption. I am quite content with the views of the Secretary of State on that matter. Lichfields says that 1.6 million homes could be unlocked on brownfield sites. Homes England has just published its plans for the next five years and it is really good that its top key performance indicator is the amount of brownfield land reclaimed. However, are there enough brownfield sites? The Northern Housing Consortium said in a report published two weeks ago that there is an 82% shortfall of brownfield capacity in the north of England. If the Centre for Cities is correct that we need more than 4 million new homes and Lichfields is correct that only 1.6 million can go on to brownfield sites, there is a gap which can be filled only by better planning, proper housing supply policies and faster building on the brownfield sites that we can build on.

I see much to recommend the proposal that we should move towards a rules-based system. I am very taken by the report from the Competition and Markets Authority which recommended a streamlining of the planning system, with more homes built and more homes that are genuinely affordable. The regulator has called for significant intervention, which I welcome.

However, I am very surprised to learn that nearly half of local planning authorities lack a five-year housing supply; of the 72 northern local planning authorities, 23 have no five-year housing supply. As a number of noble Lords did, I listened on the “Today” programme this morning to the experience of a community-led housing initiative in Bristol which plans to have 100 units of 100% affordable housing. It has been months in the planning system, unable to get its applications through. One application had a six-month wait simply to get a case officer. The solution is exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, said: let local authorities set their own planning fees. The solution of going straight to the inspectorate is not adequate.

In conclusion, a number of noble Lords have said that we need more small construction companies. Post Covid, this really matters. We cannot just rely on the big housebuilders. The small construction companies are building only 15% of homes today; they used to build 40% before the housing crash. If Homes England could look at how it gets smaller construction companies back into the market, it would help enormously with solving some of the problems of first-time buyers.

Photo of Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government) 5:34, 14 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, for tabling this most important debate and, as always, for sharing his very considerable expertise and for all the work that he has done in the past and in your Lordships’ House to champion housing and the many issues related to housing and planning. As usual, he does not clap with one hand. He raised some important issues around downsizing incentives, incentivising to sell properties from the private rented sector and institutional finance, especially pension funds. That is something we definitely have to look at. It would resolve some of the investment issues that were raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill. I am not so sure about his idea on lifetime tenancies, but we need to have a look at more issues around tenancies.

I thank my noble friend Lady Donaghy for her words and for reminding us of the inspirational Lord McKenzie, who I knew very well. It is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Shipley. I agree with him on the right-to-buy issues. Just this week we learned that the retention of right-to-buy receipts at 100% has been cancelled by the Secretary of State—a completely incomprehensible decision.

It is shocking to realise that this year we have over 136,000 young people aged between 16 and 25 who are approaching their councils as homeless. This represents a 5% increase on the year before. Even worse, this is the very tip of the iceberg. The median age of people presenting as homeless is just 32, with many being much younger. There is also a gender issue: for females presenting as homeless it is even younger, at just 25. With homelessness increasing dramatically across the country, as we have heard in so many recent debates in this House, it is worrying to see the evidence that those who become homeless at a young age will be far more likely to face multiple long-term challenges.

I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for starting with two anonymised stories from my casework which illustrate some of the many issues that lead to homelessness and to hidden homelessness. The first is Alison, a qualified nurse working in the NHS. She came to my surgery and asked very calmly whether we thought that it was reasonable that she had been sleeping on the sofa at a friend’s house for seven years. She patiently explained the issues that this caused in relation to her shift work. As a single working woman in her late 20s, she was very low priority for social housing, but her low salary and the scarcity of affordable private rented accommodation excluded her from those options. She was too concerned about the pressure on her finances to seek a mortgage and had little enough money left at the end of the month to save for a deposit anyway. Alison was one of the hidden homeless, which I will talk about more later. Her case illustrates just how skewed allocation policies have become, in terms of homelessness prevention, for all but the most extreme cases.

Shannon also came to see us. She had been thrown out of the family home when she told her dad that she was gay. He had attacked her with a whisky bottle and told her never to come near the house again. Shannon had a pet dog which gave her emotional support in this awful situation. Although keeping him excluded her from much of the emergency hostel-type accommodation, she could not bear to part with him. She was working full-time in a restaurant, so she slept outside the restaurant in the bushes and then washed and changed in the restaurant before starting work.

This illustrates one of the many types of family breakdown that can lead to young people becoming homeless. We all know that there are multiple potential causes of homelessness among our young people and that the chronic undersupply of housing—of all tenures but particularly affordable rented and social rented homes —makes matters far worse for them. For some of our young people, it is simply the lack of support networks from family or community that would help them navigate the complexities of securing housing in this country. Family breakdown because of parental conflict, as in Shannon’s case, divorce, abuse or neglect, domestic abuse or bereavement, can all lead to homelessness, as can their own or a carer’s mental health issues.

We had a powerful debate in your Lordships’ House recently on poverty, led by the noble Lord, Lord Bird. We all know that poverty is the major driver of homelessness. For young people, this can mean their parents can no longer afford to have them living at home, and with over 1.2 million families now living in poverty, this brings an enormous impact. Financial deprivation stays with those young people. While for some, the bank of Mum and Dad will help with housing or rental deposits, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for others whose early life may also have been marked by housing insecurity, no such facility exists.

There are other groups more at risk too, including those from black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups, young people from the LGBT+ community and young asylum seekers and refugees. There are also regional disparities: the north-east has the highest level of youth homelessness in the UK. The noble Lord, Lord Best, often refers, rightly, to the disparities of housing availability in rural areas. Every year, as the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, mentioned, 100,000 young people leave local authority care, and this group are particularly at risk of homelessness. Some 14% of them will have slept rough and 26% will be sofa surfing. It is vital that the corporate parenting role undertaken with looked-after children does not hit a cliff edge when they reach 18. Most parents will know that young people making the transition into adult life is the point at which they need more support, not for it to come to an end. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government have given thought to how this transition may be better managed and housing policy designed to support young care leavers?

We saw the considerable efforts made to tackle rough sleeping during the pandemic, and more can be done to learn the lessons from this, including considering the “invest to save” impact of schemes such as Housing First, where emergency accommodation is provided alongside a package of support for complex needs. Are the Government looking at schemes like this around the country to help prioritise funding decisions and what comparative assessment has been done with some of the initiatives being developed in Wales and Scotland?

Rough sleeping is the tip of the iceberg: many people will be living the precarious life of sofa surfing, hostels and temporary accommodation. That can be entirely unsuitable for vulnerable young people: just imagine a vulnerable young female care leaver in a shared house with violent ex-offenders. This hidden homeless issue continues to get worse as there are few statistics collected, either on the numbers or on the impact this has on the lives of young people. Can the Minister tell us whether any work is going on in government to address this?

As usual, many local authorities—including my own, through Herts Young Homeless—have stepped up, despite the financial situation, with a range of interventions to tackle homelessness among young people. These include: prevention and early intervention to provide mediation to resolve family conflict; talking to young people in schools about housing and homelessness; crisis support which ensures that young people at risk of homelessness can access advice and guidance quickly and that, where necessary, they can access other support such as for emergency mental health needs; independent living support for young adults who do not have that support from friends or family; and advice on funding the housing, setting up bill payments, managing money, cooking, jobseeking and how to manage independent living.

The best local areas have Future Roots programmes, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, that provide tailored transition for vulnerable young people with supported living accommodation until they are ready to live independently. Although these approaches are best practice, they are not universal. Are the Government taking more steps to promote and share this best practice, preferably incentivised with some funding, and has any analysis been carried out of the long-term benefits of such preventive steps?

At the heart of this problem is the wider problem of the crisis in housing supply of all tenures. Noble Lords have referred to many of the interventions that will be needed to address that. The record on housing is simply not good enough. If the situation continues as it is, we will see further generations of young people whose life opportunities are limited by poor housing, with consequential impacts on their education, health and employment. That is why my party’s plan to build 1.5 million homes over the course of the next Parliament is at the heart of the surge we need to kickstart a housing recovery plan. We must restore the targets removed by the Secretary of State last year, as other noble Lords have mentioned. If we do not have targets locally, how will we ever achieve a national target? For young people it is social homes that often provide the start in adult life that they need. Last week, the outstanding report by Cebr for Shelter and the National Housing Federation showed conclusively that building 90,000 social homes each year would have a combined socioeconomic value of around £50 billion—last year, we built just 9,000.

Young people are disproportionately affected by practices in the private rented sector and leasehold markets. Some of them move very frequently, at a cost estimated by the Renters Reform Coalition of around £1,700 each time they move. We hoped that the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill and the Renters (Reform) Bill would scrap the tenure of leasehold and end the injustice of Section 21, but we now find that both those Bills have been watered down. I hope we will get the chance to reinstate some of those promises in your Lordships’ House.

My parents were given the start they needed for their married and family life by opportunities presented in Britain’s first post-war new town, Stevenage. That is why I was so delighted to hear my party’s pledge of a new generation of new towns, based on sustainable principles and with communities enjoying a quality of life that balances economy, environment and social aspects with high-quality housing, including a new social housing renaissance. We need a long-term housing strategy that gets the houses built that we know we need, through a planning system designed for the builders, not the bureaucrats. Labour will undertake a complete reform of planning to unblock it and get Britain building. I do not have time to go into the detail today, but I think we should have another debate on that. For our young people, what we need within that housing strategy is a national plan to tackle young homelessness, before we undermine the potential and opportunities of another generation of young people by failing them on housing.

The noble Lord, Lord Young, is right to point out that there have 16 Housing Ministers since 2010; that does not help. This Government have had 14 years to address the chronic housing problems this country faces, which are still getting worse. Is it not time we had a general election, to give these young people their future back?

Photo of Baroness Scott of Bybrook Baroness Scott of Bybrook Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) 5:46, 14 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham for bringing forward this important debate, and also for the continued passion and knowledge that he gives to this House about the sector. I appreciate his challenge, as I am sure many others in the Chamber do. This is an important debate about the needs of young people within the overall housing market and I thank all other noble Lords who have spoken today for their considered and insightful contributions.

Throughout the debate, we have heard about the challenges the younger generation of this country face in achieving home ownership, and in accessing affordable housing to rent. Securing affordable, decent and stable homes is critical to ensuring young people can meet major life milestones, move for career opportunities, and start a family. The Government are committed to delivering the warm, safe, decent and affordable housing needed to support them through their life journeys.

Young people are part of a housing market significantly different from the one experienced by previous generations. Children of home owners are over twice as likely to be home owners than children of renters—an issue raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Donaghy and Lady Thornhill. The dependence on the bank of mum and dad, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Attlee, to afford a home shows the difficulties in accessing the housing ladder. This is reflected in how the historic home ownership rate for those aged 25 to 34 has fallen from 51% in 1989 to 28% in 2019.

The Government have worked hard to reverse these historic trends with our long-term housing strategy. We have made huge strides since 2010 to increase home ownership, provide stability and security for those renting, and improve the quality of houses young adults own and rent. This will ultimately improve their life outcomes and quality of life. The hundreds of thousands of new homes we are delivering will create the homes young people need now and in the future. I am proud of the progress this Government have made to deliver on these priorities, but we cannot stop. We will therefore continue to press ahead in meeting these challenges.

First, almost all noble Lords brought up the planning system. We have built more homes in places young people want to live, and at prices that they can afford. Since 2010, over 2.5 million additional homes have been delivered, and the four highest rates of additional housing supply in over 30 years have all come since 2018. Increasing housing supply is at the heart of solving our housing challenges; crucial to that is reforming our planning system. Not only must we have enough homes in the right places, we must also have homes suitable for those with a range of needs, including those with disabilities and special care needs, and the vulnerable.

My noble friends Lord Young of Cookham, Lord Jackson of Peterborough and Lord Attlee raised important questions about how we are unblocking the planning system to deliver the houses that we need in the places where we need them. Building on our work since 2010, in December 2023 the Government revised the National Planning Policy Framework in response to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act. The framework sets out the Government’s planning policies for England and how we expect them to be applied. While the Government’s standard method for assessing local housing need is used to assess the total number of homes needed in a local area, the framework makes it clear that local authorities should assess the size, type and tenure of housing needed for different groups, including young people, young people with disabilities, care leavers and students.

Government housing targets have not changed. We remain committed to our ambition to deliver 300,000 homes a year. The Secretary of State’s Written Ministerial Statement of 6 December 2022 confirmed that the standard method for assessing local housing need will be retained. The Government have made it clear that every local authority is expected to progress their local plans. If sufficient progress is not made, the Secretary of State will consider using his powers of intervention to ensure that plans are put in place. We also recently consulted on proposals to implement reforms to plan-making processes to ensure that plans are prepared in 30 months. The reason for that is that we know that local authorities that have up-to-date local plans deliver more houses.

The Government have in place a strong programme of support to upskill the capacity and capability of local planning authorities, as raised by my noble friend Lord Jackson of Peterborough. This includes a £13.5 million “planning super-squad” of leading planners and other experts that will deploy teams of specialists into planning authorities to accelerate development and a £29 million planning skills development delivery fund to help planning authorities deal with the backlog of planning applications ahead of the forthcoming changes to the planning system through the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act. To ensure that local authorities are doing everything they can to build the homes that are needed, in February this year the Secretary of State set out clear expectations for every council in England to prioritise building on brownfield developments —a key point raised by my noble friend Lord Jackson.

However, it is not enough just to build more houses. The Government are committed to ensuring that the planning system creates more beautiful and sustainable buildings and places everywhere, as raised by the noble Lord, Lord Best. The duty introduced through the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act for all local councils to produce a design code at the spatial scale of their authority area will give design codes significant weight when planning applications are determined, and the establishment of the Office for Place will support the creation of healthy, beautiful places. This Government will not compromise on quality and beauty.

Turning to housing supply, an area raised by the noble Lord, Lord Best, with regard to the 300,000 target, I recognise the significant challenges faced by the housebuilding sector in the current economic climate. The Government continue to prioritise support to the industry and local areas as part of our commitment to deliver 1 million new homes over the lifetime of this Parliament, which we are on track to deliver. This is critical in ensuring that housing across that the market is affordable—a crucial topic raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill. We are investing billions to support housebuilding and achieve that commitment, including through our £1 billion brownfield, infrastructure and land fund, and to manage different drivers of demand, such as migration—an important area raised by my noble friend Lord Lilley. Our £1.2 billion local authority housing fund is providing capital funding directly to councils. It will provide capital funding to local authorities to obtain better-quality temporary accommodation for those owed homelessness duty and to provide safe and suitable homes for those on the Afghan resettlement schemes—an extremely important point noted by the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine.

As my noble friend Lord Jackson mentioned, ensuring that we are facilitating institutional investment in housebuilding in this country is of paramount importance. The £1.5 billion Levelling Up Home Building Fund leverages institutional investment from both private capital and pensions to achieve our ambitions.

My noble friend Lord Jackson and the noble Lord, Lord Best, raised the recent Competition and Markets Authority report on housebuilding. I welcome the report. The Government will carefully consider the findings and the recommendation to formally respond to it within 90 days of publication.

I want to note where we have made substantial progress through our delivery of affordable homes, an issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Best, in particular. Since 2010 we have delivered almost 700,000 new affordable homes, making it easier for young people to access the housing ladder. We have scaled up the delivery of affordable housing by investing £11.5 billion through the affordable homes programme, working ambitiously towards meeting our target of a quarter of a million new affordable homes.

At the same time, we have taken steps to reduce demand competition. Although the expansion of the short-term lets market has brought a range of benefits, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, we want to ensure that housing continues to be affordable. That is why the Government have announced a mandatory national short-term lets registration scheme to provide valuable information to local authorities in supporting the application and enforcement of planning changes. The Government also introduced higher rates of stamp duty land tax in April 2016 for those purchasing additional properties.

The noble Lord, Lord Best, raised the issue of the Church of England’s report Coming Home, which argued that an ambitious approach is needed to solve the housing challenges facing this country. As he said, it was debated in detail on 24 February, when the Government set out the comprehensive long-term housing strategy in responding to those challenges.

Turning to home ownership, the Government have a robust programme of interventions. My noble friend Lord Young, the noble Lord, Lord Best, and the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, raised the important question of how we are making it easier for young people to buy their own home. One key programme to note, shared ownership, is a unique scheme targeted at first-time buyers. It allows young people to purchase a share of a home through a mortgage while paying rent at below-market value on the rest of the home. Over time, young people can buy more shares, until they have bought the home in its entirety. I have seen many schemes like this and how pleased young people, particularly young families, are when they feel they are getting towards owning that home of their own.

Photo of Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Many young people who have gone into those schemes are now having incredibly high service charges imposed on them, and we need to come back to that issue when we look at the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill. In a case I saw today, the charge had gone up from £94 a month to over £600, and as a result that young couple cannot sell the property or afford to live in it. The colloquial term for this is “fleecehold”. We need to think very carefully about those schemes.

Photo of Baroness Scott of Bybrook Baroness Scott of Bybrook Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

The noble Baroness is right, and I have heard similar stories. That is why we have the leaseholder Bill coming through, which we will be debating in just a few weeks’ time.

In 2022-23, of those reported to my department, an estimated 77% of shared ownership purchases were made by first-time buyers and 33% of those purchases were made by buyers under the age of 30—a testament to the effectiveness of the action of this Government. Furthermore, our First Homes scheme offers first-time buyers under the age of 40 a minimum 30% discount on the price of an eligible new home, helping the younger generation get a foothold on the property ladder. The noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, asked for further detail on what the programme has delivered. I have only the top line, which is that there were 1,250 completions through the First Homes early delivery programme to the end of September 2023. If the noble Baroness wants more detail, she is welcome to come and ask me.

Through our lifetime ISA scheme, we have helped more than 56,000 account holders to become first-time buyers. More recently, we have recognised and responded to the challenging market conditions for lenders and buyers alike through the introduction of the mortgage guarantee scheme. This supports participating lenders to continue providing 5% deposit mortgages. We have extended this until June 2025 so that we can continue providing this vital support.

My noble friend Lord Young raised the question of stamp duty, land tax and cutting capital gains tax when landlords sell to sitting tenants. The Government have already taken action by cutting stamp duty during the pandemic, up to March 2025. This is reducing the financial burden on first-time buyers across the country, but particularly in and around London and the south-east, where these pressures are felt most acutely. On cutting capital gains tax for landlords’ sales to sitting tenants, this is not a policy the Government are currently considering. Taxation is a matter for the Chancellor and any decisions he takes on tax are considered, obviously, in the context of the wider public finances.

On the work of government on preventing homelessness and rough sleeping, as raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Thornhill and Lady Valentine, I want to set out the measures we have prioritised to prevent vulnerable people—young people particularly—such as care leavers ending up homeless. In 2022 we published our cross-government strategy Ending Rough Sleeping for Good, which recognised that young people face particular challenges accessing and maintaining accommodation.

For young people with disabilities, my department, alongside the Department for Health and Social Care and the NHS, provides capital grant funding to subsidise the delivery of a new supply of supported housing, including for disabled people. Young people with disabilities who satisfy needs-assessment eligibility criteria and a means test benefit from a wider statutory duty to provide home adaptions. There are powers to provide adaptions for those who do not qualify under that duty. Under this Government, the disabled facilities grant has risen from £220 million in 2015-16 to £625 million in 2024-25—a more than doubling of the grant. This has been well received by disabled people.

When young people do find themselves homeless or at risk of homelessness, within the next 56 days they are owed a homelessness duty by their local authority. Our single homelessness accommodation programme will deliver over 650 homes and support services for young people in this situation. This is in addition to other support, including the £109 million top-up to the homelessness prevention grant for councils and an initial £6 million for rough sleeping winter pressures.

Many of our young people want to be free to move to places where they can connect their talents with economic opportunities before choosing to settle down. This is where the private sector steps in. Increasing security and quality in the private rented sector requires ambitious reforms and the Government have stepped up to deliver. We have introduced the Renters (Reform) Bill, which will support tenants with a raft of measures, including applying the decent homes standard to the private rented sector for the first time and abolishing Section 21 evictions. The Bill is awaiting Report in the other place, which is subject to parliamentary scheduling, and it will be announced in the usual course of business management. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, that the proportion of private rented sector households has remained relatively stable for nearly a decade, and the number of renters has doubled since 2004.

For those in the social rented sector, we have enshrined in law, through the Social Housing (Regulation) Act, a rebalancing of the relationship between landlord and tenant. We are ensuring that landlords are held to account for their performance—an important step in improving the quality of houses across the market, which was an issue raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine. We are creating a housing market fit for the future.

The Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill will reform the outdated leasehold system in this country. From 2025, the future homes standard will future-proof our homes, ensuring that new homes produce at least 75% less CO emissions than those built to previous standards. We know that making long-term changes takes time to deliver, and the Government are doing all they can against a challenging economic background to ensure that the younger generation can access affordable, safe and high-quality housing.

Following the £188 million allocation to the housing projects in Sheffield, Blackpool and Liverpool at the Convention of the North on 1 March, last week’s Spring Budget allocated over £240 million to housing projects in London, an area where affordability is challenging, particularly for young people, as we have heard today.

The noble Lord, Lord Best, my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham and others brought up intergenerational housing. I totally agree with them that we need better older people’s housing and more choice for older people because, if we give them better housing and more choice, we can start to move the housing stock around. Some local authorities are doing that really well, but more can be done. The Government’s independent older people’s housing task force is looking at housing for older people, and it will make its final recommendations to Ministers this summer.

I hope I have answered as much as I can—

Photo of Lord Jackson of Peterborough Lord Jackson of Peterborough Ceidwadwyr

There is consensus across the House, among Members of all parties and none, that we should reinstate the local housing targets. Nevertheless, 65 local planning authorities have frozen their local plans. Is my noble friend in a position to explain or tell the House when the Secretary of State is likely to invoke his statutory powers to force those local planning authorities to come up with local plans?

Photo of Baroness Scott of Bybrook Baroness Scott of Bybrook Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

I cannot say when he will do that; all I can say is that the Act is now in statute. The NPPF is now being updated, so we will encourage and support those local authorities to get the local plans in place as soon as possible.

I am being told I have run out of time, so, in conclusion, we fully recognise the unique housing needs of young people and the importance of homes to their lives. The Government are absolutely committed to ensuring those needs are met, whether that be through home ownership, the private rented sector or social housing. This debate has served as a valuable reminder of the critical responsibility we share in supporting the next generation and making sure that the housing market works for all. I once again thank my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham for bringing forward this debate and all noble Lords for their contributions today. I look forward to continuing discussions and working with noble Lords on issues relating to the housing needs of not just our younger generation but the whole of our communities.

Photo of Lord Young of Cookham Lord Young of Cookham Deputy Chairman of Committees 6:09, 14 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, I am grateful to all those who have taken part in this debate. It could go on until 6.26 pm, but the House will be relieved to hear that I plan to speak for just a couple of minutes.

The noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, quite rightly mentioned Lord McKenzie of Luton, who shadowed me when I was on the Front Bench and asked the most difficult questions with the utmost courtesy. We all miss him. She rightly pointed out the illogicality of current ratable values and the HMO loophole, which does need to be looked at.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, for her comments, particularly on the need to arrest the drift from long-term lets to short-term lets. There are a number of provisions in the pipeline, and I know she will be keeping a close eye on that.

My noble friend Lord Lilley raised the issue of demand. He was right to do so if one is talking about the housing market, where supply and demand are relevant. Where I think I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Best, is that one needs to raise housing in immigration debates as well as raising immigration in housing debates. I know he and I will both pursue that.

The noble Lord, Lord Best, was also right to mention the disenchantment of young people at the current housing position: it is feeding into disenchantment with politics as well as disenchantment with housing. I am grateful, as always, to the noble Lord, Lord Best. I thought the point he made about the public expenditure benefit of home ownership because it reduces the housing benefit costs of older people was a valid one. I hope the Treasury can feed that into its computer when it looks at future expenditure plans. The noble Lord also rightly mentioned the Letwin review, which had a whole lot of worthwhile policies which I think should be pursued.

We welcome my noble friend Lord Attlee to housing debates, with his robust common sense. We learned that the planning system was a conspiracy to keep the rich rich, but I agree with him on what he said about some of the complexities of the planning system.

I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, who focused on temporary accommodation and its huge cost to local authorities; and on the disruption to the families who are caught up in the moves, including the disruption to education. She was right to mention housing benefit. I think she was the only person in the debate to mention housing benefit, which is highly relevant to any debate on housing. She also reminded us of the good people who are doing heroic work in voluntary organisations on the front line.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Jackson. On nutrient neutrality, I was slightly surprised after the defeat in your Lordships’ House that the policy was not overturned in the other place, but my days of party management are now way behind me, so I will not go too much into that.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for endorsing the need for the planning departments to have the resources that they need, the need to have up-to-date plans and, of course, the need to increase supply.

The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, reminded us of Housing First and what we could do when we really had to and how we got everybody who was sleeping rough off the streets. That was a fantastic response by local authorities and voluntary organisations. She agreed with me on the need to reinstate local authority targets.

Finally, I am very grateful to my patient noble friend the Minister, who provided an important balance to our debate by setting on the record the Government’s many achievements. She dealt, as helpfully as she was able to do within the confines of her brief, with all the issues that were raised.

In conclusion, this debate has been a rich quarry for material for party manifestos. I beg to move.

Motion agreed.