Prime Minister’s Questions – Housing Crisis & Bedroom Tax

Jeremy Corbyn: This week the Prime Minister rather belatedly acknowledged there is a housing crisis in Britain. He announced a £140 million fund to transform 100 housing estates around the country, which amounts to £1.4 million per housing estate to bulldoze and then rebuild them. [Interruption.My maths is perfect. This money is a drop in the ocean. It is not even going to pay for the bulldozers, is it?

The Prime Minister: We have doubled the housing budget and we are going to invest over £8 billion in housing, and that comes after 700,000 homes having been built since I became Prime Minister. We have a quarter of a million more affordable homes. Here is a statistic that the right hon. Gentleman will like: in the last Parliament, we built more council houses than in 13 years of a Labour Government.

Jeremy Corbyn: The Prime Minister has not thought this through very carefully. Every estate that he announces he wishes to bulldoze will include tenants and people who have bought their homes under right to buy. Will those people, the leaseholders, be guaranteed homes on the rebuilt estates he proposes?

The Prime Minister: I accept, of course, that this is not as carefully thought through as the right hon. Gentleman’s reshuffle, which I gather is still going on—it has not actually finished yet. We want to go to communities where there are sink estates and housing estates that have held people back and agree with the local councils and local people to make sure that tenants get good homes and that homeowners get rehoused in new houses. That is exactly what we want. Let us look at what we have done on housing. We reformed the planning rules, and Labour Members opposed them; we introduced Help to Buy, and they opposed it; we introduced help to save to help people get their deposit, and they opposed it. They have absolutely nothing to say about people trapped in housing estates who want a better start in their lives.

Jeremy Corbyn: I notice that the Prime Minister did not give any guarantee to leaseholders on estates. I have a question to ask on behalf of a probably larger group on most estates. A tenant by the name of Darrell asks:

“Will the Prime Minister guarantee that all existing tenants of the council estates earmarked for redevelopment will be rehoused in new council housing, in their current communities, with the same tenancy conditions as they currently have?”

The Prime Minister: We are not going to be able to deal with these sink estates unless we get the agreement of tenants and unless we show how we are going to support homeowners and communities. Is it not interesting to reflect on who here is the small “c” conservative who is saying to people, “Stay stuck in your sink estate; have nothing better than what Labour gave you after the war.”? We are saying, “If you are a tenant, have the right to buy; if you want to buy a home, here is help to save; if you are in a sink estate, we will help you out.” That is the fact of politics today—a Conservative Government who want to give people life chances, and a Labour Opposition who say “Stay stuck in poverty”.

Jeremy Corbyn: The Prime Minister does not seem to understand the very serious concerns that council tenants have when they feel they are going to be forced away from strong communities in which they live and their children go to school. Perhaps the Prime Minister will be able to help us with another issue. His party’s manifesto said:

“Everyone who works hard should be able to own a home of their own”.

Will families earning the Prime Minister’s so-called national living wage be able to afford one of his discount starter homes?

The Prime Minister: I very much hope they will. As well as starter homes, we have shared ownership homes. When I became Prime Minister, a young person trying to buy a home needed £30,000 for the deposit—

Mr Speaker: Order. I apologise for interrupting. [Interruption.] Order. I say to the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) that her shrill shrieking from a sedentary position is not appropriate behaviour for a would-be stateswoman. I want to hear the Prime Minister’s answer.

The Prime Minister: When I became Prime Minister, people needed £30,000 for a deposit on a typical home. Because of the schemes we have introduced, that is now down to £10,000. I want people to own their homes, so let us consider this issue. We are saying to the 1.3 million tenants of housing associations, “We are on your side: you can buy your own home.” Why does the right hon. Gentleman still oppose that?

Jeremy Corbyn: I hope that that word “hope” goes a long way, because research by Shelter has found that families on the Prime Minister’s living wage will be unable to afford the average starter home in 98% of local authority areas in England—only 2% may benefit. Rather than building more affordable homes, is the Prime Minister not simply branding more homes affordable, which is not a solution to the housing crisis? Will he confirm that home ownership has actually fallen since he became Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister: There is a challenge in helping people to buy their own homes. That is what Help to Buy was about, which Labour opposed. That is what help to save was about, which Labour opposed.

Is it not interesting that the right hon. Gentleman did not answer the question about the 1.3 million housing association tenants? I want what is best for everyone. Let us put it like this. The right hon. Gentleman owns his home; I own my home. Why should we not let those 1.3 million own their homes? Why not? What is the right hon. Gentleman frightened of?

Jeremy Corbyn: The Prime Minister—[Interruption.] When the noise disappears—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. The Leader of the Opposition will be heard.

Jeremy Corbyn: I thank Conservative Back Benchers for their deep concern about the housing crisis in this country. It is noted.

The Prime Minister has given no assurances to tenants, no assurances to leaseholders, and no assurances to low-paid people who want to find somewhere decent to live. May I ask him one final question? It is a practical question that is faced by many people throughout the country who are deeply worried about their own housing situation and how they are going to live in the future, and it comes from Linda, who has been a council tenant for the last 25 years. She says:

“I will eventually look to downsize to a property suitable for our ageing circumstances. Due to the housing bill being debated at present, if we downsize we will have to sign a new tenancy agreement. If we stay, we face having to pay the bedroom tax and debt. If we downsize, we lose our secure home.”

Linda and many like her are facing a real problem. If she were in the Prime Minister’s advice bureau, what advice would he give her?

The Prime Minister: The first thing I would say to Linda is that we are cutting social rents in this Parliament, so she will be paying less in rent. The second thing I would say, if she is concerned about the spare room subsidy, is that of course it is not paid by pensioners, which is a point that the right hon. Gentleman failed to make. Another thing I would say to Linda, and to all those who are in council houses or housing association homes, is “We believe in giving you the chance to buy their own home, and are helping you to do that.”

Is it not interesting what this exchange has shown? We now have a Labour party whose housing policy does not support home ownership, just as its defence policy does not believe in defence, and just as we now have a Labour party that does not believe in work and a Labour leader who does not believe in Britain.