HC Deb 22 October 2003 vol 411 cc630-1
7. Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North)

What plans he has for measures to help families living in overcrowded conditions. [133439]

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Keith Hill)

As my hon. Friend will be aware, about 2 per cent. of households are overcrowded under the standard used in the survey of English housing, with about a third of those in London. The Government believe that the way to help overcrowded families is investment in new homes. That is why we are investing £5 billion in more affordable homes over the next two years, double the level of investment that we inherited in 1997.

Ms Keeble

I welcome the extra investment and the relief that it would provide for families living in overcrowded conditions. Does my right hon. Friend accept, however, that the standards established in 1935 on overcrowding are now out of date? We need some simple standards that will safeguard the well-being of families living in overcrowded conditions.

Keith Hill

Of course, I agree with my hon. Friend that the 1935 statutory standards are outdated. The problem, however, is that they cannot be raised in isolation from other factors. Some of the current proposals would have the effect of increasing twentyfold the number of households statutorily defined as overcrowded, imposing a quite unrealistic demand on the resources of local authorities and diverting them from the excellent decent homes programme and their responsibilities to homeless families, who often live in far worse conditions than overcrowded households.

Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon)

Surely the primary way to overcome overcrowding is to build more affordable homes to rent? Despite what the Deputy Prime Minister has just said, is it not now clear that whereas in 1997 more than 30,000 affordable homes to rent were being completed in this country, the figure has halved and was below 15,000 last year? What is the Minister going to do about that?

Keith Hill

I will tell the hon. Gentleman what we are going to do about it. In 1997, we inherited a disastrous £19 billion of arrears in the modernisation and refurbishment of social housing. We are putting that right. By next spring, 1 million social homes will be brought up to the decent homes standard and we will have brought all such homes up to that standard by 2010. In addition, this year, we are building more than 22,000 new homes, and we are committed to £5 billion of new investment in affordable housing over the next two years, double the level of investment that we inherited from the Opposition.

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