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MPs spar in Commons Housing Bill row

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  • 03/11/2015
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MPs spar in Commons Housing Bill row
MPs in the House of Commons have clashed over the government’s Housing Bill, particularly with regard to the affordability of Starter Homes in London.

Commons members said the Starter Homes Initiative, which will aim to provide 200,000 new homes for first-time buyers at a discount, was a ‘non-starter’ with ‘radical action’ needed to address the provision of affordable housing to Londoners.

Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative mayoral candidate for London said while he welcomed the government’s commitment to provide starter homes, he was worried that the price cap of £450,000 in London would be unattainable for many prospective buyers.

“The gap between supply and demand remains very wide, and without radical action, it will grow wider still, further pricing Londoners out of their own city,” he said.

“It needs to work for Londoners… and a 20% discount on a £450,000 home in London is still out of reach for many people. The bottom line is that we are going to have to use every single available lever to deliver affordable homes at all incomes.”

On the extension of the Right to Buy scheme, Goldsmith added that he wanted to amend the Bill to ‘guarantee it worked for Londoners’.

He said: “We should extend the right to buy, but at the same time we must gain a significant number of low-cost homes, which we know is possible.”

Secretary of state for communities and local government Greg Clark MP attempted to allay fears that the proposed price cap of £450,000 in London would not be used as a ‘price guide’ by developers.

“It is a cap and not a guide, and we want to see starter homes with prices well below that amount, but it is right to set a maximum,” he said.

MPs’ comments echoed concerns raised by delegates at the Mortgage Solutions British New Homes Mortgage Senate in October, where some attendees were worried about the quality of homes built under the initiative.

Conservative MP for Basingstoke Maria Miller, said the government expected starter homes to be ‘of the highest standards’.

“I applaud the minister [Greg Clark] for his drive in this area. He has set up the design advisory panel to make sure that exemplar designs are available for all to use,” she added.

Shadow cabinet minister for housing and planning John Healey MP, was particularly vocal during the debate, saying the Bill was ‘bad’ for those earning an ordinary income.

“If you want to buy your own home, then these so-called starter homes are a non-starter for you, and they are unaffordable to most people on average incomes. If you are worried about rising rents and insecurity in your private rented home—one in four families with kids in England now brings them up in private rented accommodation—this Bill does nothing for you.”

He added: “It is a field day for developers, and a dark day for families wanting to rent or buy an affordable home.”

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