Bishop of Newcastle joins House of Lords debate on housing crisis



The Bishop of Newcastle, the Right Reverend Christine Hardman has asked the Government to explain what progress is being made to ease Britain’s housing crisis.

Her call came during a debate this afternoon in the House of Lords on the role of the country’s biggest house builders and the lack of affordable housing being built across the UK.

A report before the House of Lords debated early last year highlighted restrictions on local authority financial borrowing as a principle reason for the lack of affordable housing. In Tyne and Wear alone, more than 22,000 households are on council house waiting lists and more than 8,000 in Northumberland.

Speaking in the Lords this afternoon, the Bishop said: “This represents tens of thousands of people including children without a home that feels like a home. The report highlighted the fact that this country can only build enough new homes when local authorities get back into the business of building homes. Key to this is removing the restrictions on local authority financing and borrowing to build homes. Can the noble Minister Lord Bourne, tell us what progress is being made with the Treasury in this area?”

She also pointed to the declining number of small housebuilders in the UK, with many going out of business due to the high-risk nature of the sector they operate in, allowing the major housebuilders to dominate the marketplace.

“There are government interventions that could help here, such as guaranteeing bank loans to small housebuilding firms and setting a requirement for local authorities to reserve a proportion of its planning permission grants for land owned or optioned to small builders. These kind of interventions are worth making – but we delude ourselves if we think that sorting out the housebuilding industry is the answer to all our problems.”

The Bishop added: “This is not just about housing supply and quantity but about quality. If we are truly to solve the crisis we need to build communities where people can put down roots and thrive. All too often our housing developments sit at two ends of a spectrum. At one end, new social or affordable housing, usually very small units too small for families, cramped limited space, sometimes shoddily built.  At the other end sit developments of luxury homes priced beyond the reach of local households. We are witnessing the hollowing out of communities along the fault lines of social class and income. We need to preserve the diversity of our communities which is a cherished feature of our nation.  

“This is about people and it’s on our watch, and I hope we will find the personal determination and that we will support and encourage the Government to work towards honouring the human dignity of every man, woman and child in this country by working to create the homes and communities for our children and grandchildren that they deserve.”

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