asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what steps he proposes to take to ease the difficulties facing housing associations and to encourage local authorities to help them in any campaign for the repair, improvement and conversion of old houses with many years' life ahead of them.
Local authorities have wide powers to help housing associations with loans and grants for the improvement and conversion of existing houses. This is a field in which there is great scope for housing associations, particularly in the big cities, and many authorities welcome their efforts.I am doing all I can to encourage them to help.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that sympathetic reply. Know- ing his general interest in this matter, may I ask him whether it is intended in the not-too-distant future to issue a circular of advice to local authorities? Will he bear in mind that while some are sympathtic, many are unsympathetic and that serious financial problems face housing associations which require a good deal of work?
Yes, I am aware of the great difference between far-sighted local authorities who see the invaluable help which housing associations can give and the reactionary few who do not. However, the loans by local authorities have doubled since 1963 to a rate of £4 million a year, although that could be greatly increased.
Will the right hon. Gentleman also consider the possibility of relaxing some of the fiscal and legal restrictions which inhibit the growth of housing associations?
Yes, I am considering this and I have already had talks with a number of them and we are considering what action we can take to help them.