In attendance were Secretary of State Eric Pickles MP, Housing Minister Grant Shapps MP and Minister for Decentralisation and Cities Greg Clark MP.
Committee members George Hollingberry MP and Heidi Alexander MP questioned Grant Shapps on the new Housing Strategy and whether it was the government's target to provide 450,000 new homes a year.
Shapps said he estimates that 170,000 affordable homes will be built by 2015, though ideally, he would be looking for 200,000 plus to be built each year. He said a range of initiatives will provide the 170,000 homes:
- by encouraging the sale of 100,000 council homes through Right to Buy, and using all of that money to replace, on a one-for-one basis, every one of those homes. Thereby providing an additional 100,000 homes.
- Growing Places Fund - £500 million to unlock the larger infrastructure projects that could enable housing, in many cases, to go ahead
- Get Britain Building fund - £420 million fund, providing around 16,000 or 17,000 homes.
- £71 million programme for housing market renewal aimed at ensuring that there will be no street in the country where over half the street is empty.
- the New Homes Bonus will bring 22,000 empty homes back into use.
Heidi Alexander MP also asked Shapps whether through the Affordable Rent model costs are being shifted on to the Housing Benefit Bill. In reply Grant Shapps said,
"A lot of people think immediately that if you are charging a higher intermediate rent-which in London is 65% of the market rent-surely housing benefit bills are going to go up. The reality is that a lot of the people who will be living in those new Affordable Rent homes are at the moment, in the private rented sector, paying 100% of the market rent."
"We actually see a reduction in the Housing Benefit Bill in those cases and overall a few tens of millions’ increase over the Parliament, but it is not a dramatic shift."