Entry: "Parliamentary Question: Housing - 20 May 2002"

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Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow): Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that the average income in Tower Hamlets is 12,000 a year but the average cost of a house in Tower Hamlets is 180,000, which effectively means that no normal person in my constituency can afford to buy a house? Will he look, therefore, at the intermediate housing market and at, for example, increasing the cash incentive scheme, so that people in Tower Hamlets and elsewhere can afford to live in a house?

Mr. Byers: My hon. Friend is right to point out the particular difficulties which I know she has in her constituency and which occur in Tower Hamlets more generally in relation to the dramatic increase in the value of properties in that part of London and, indeed, London and the south-east generally over the recent period. Cash incentives are one of the levers that can be used. The Government are looking very closely at how we can make that scheme even more attractive than it is at the present time.

To refer to the point that I made to the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Rendel), because the value of land has also increased dramatically in Tower Hamlets, one real lever is to attach a condition to planning applications that affordable homes be made available. That is one of the most effective ways in the short term of providing additional housing that people can afford to buy. That must be at the heart of what we are trying to achieve through the planning regime.