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Housing (New Towns)

Volume 884: debated on Thursday 23 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his policy in specific numerical terms regarding the desirable housing balance in new towns as between ownership and renting.

The policy for the immediate future does not lend itself to such numerical expression. As the recent consultation paper on new towns stresses, the total level of production of housing is what matters in the immediate future, and it would be wrong to curb this effort by reference to longer-term views about the appropriate rôles of rented and owner-occupied housing. Because of the present strong demand for rented housing, the consultation paper suggests that corporations be asked to give special emphasis to this; but it also suggests that encouragement be given to meeting the demand for low-priced owner-occupied housing, and building by housing associations.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will give details of the statistical evidence for his statement in paragraph 3.14 of the consultation document "New Towns in England and Wales" that in some new towns it also appears that increased emphasis on building for sale resulted in a slowing down of the rented house-building programme; and whom he consulted before arriving at that conclusion, other than civil servants.

In 1971 the number of dwellings for rent completed by development corporations in England—plus the Commission for the New Towns—was 9,080. In 1972 and 1973 the numbers of such completions fell to 6,872 and 6,868 respectively. The number of houses built for sale by private developers on land made available by development corporations was 1,362 in 1971, 1,980 in 1972, and 4,204 in 1973. The average period between the start and completion of houses built by development corporations increased by one-fifth between February 1972 and February 1974. From these facts I drew my own conclusions.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the present proportion of the dwelling stock in England which is owner-occupied and what are the equivalent figures for new towns.

In the 1971 Census 40 per cent. of households in English new towns and 50 per cent. of all households in England were owner-occupiers. Later figures for the new towns are not available.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment upon what statistical criteria he based the statement in paragraph 3.15 of his consultation paper "New Towns in England and Wales" that in many new towns the new town rented housing programme has now fallen behind demand to the point where it would be imprudent to allow development corporations' rented stock to be depleted by further sales; how he assessed that demand; and in what way that demand differed from application lists of local housing authorities.

As will be seen from my reply to an earlier Question from the hon. Member today, the number of new houses for rent completed by development corporations in 1972 and 1973 showed a fall of some 25 per cent. when compared with the 1971 figure. The number of "relets" also decreased, because the rented stock was diminished by sales of large numbers of rented houses in that period. The resulting build-up in demand is illustrated by the waiting periods for houses in the London new towns for workers who obtain jobs through the new and expanding towns scheme. Except for some limited categories, this waiting period currently ranges from 20 to 52 weeks, compared with 3 to 20 weeks at the beginning of 1972.Future demand for rented housing in new towns is assessed in relation to the number of new jobs to be created by the planned development of the town; the number of new households to be formed as the town grows; the decisions which may be taken from time to time on the categories of people to be housed. The housing service of local authorities is based upon those authorities' responsibilities under the various Housing Acts and the demand upon that service cannot therefore be directly compared with the demand upon development corporations with their different responsibilities.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether it is part of the housing policy proposals put forward in paragraphs 4.7 to 4.13 of his consultation document "New Towns in England and Wales" that action is to be taken by new town authorities forthwith; or whether development corporations and the Commission for the New Towns should continue to frame their housing policies along the lines set out by his predecessor until he announces his decisions at the end of the period of consultation.

In general, there will be consultation before new policies are confirmed, but in order to deal with the immediate demand for rented housing, some interim changes have already been introduced. There will, for example, be no further sales, without prior approval, of housing built for rent.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment in which of the new towns over 30 per cent. of the developing corporation's rented stock has passed into private ownership; and what is the total number of dwellings already built in each of those new towns.

According to the latest available figures, only in Stevenage has the percentage of rented stock sold exceeded 30 per cent., but it had reached over 28 per cent. in Basildon when I decided, in March 1974, that such sales should cease. Paragraph 3.14 of the consultation paper "New Towns in England and Wales" should therefore be amended to read

"… in some new towns about 30 per cent. of the corporations' rented stock has now passed into private hands"
and I am grateful to the hon. Member for the opportunity to make this correction.

At 30th September 1974, on land owned or made available by the development corporations, 19,951 dwellings had been built since designation by all agencies in Stevenage, and 20,608 in Basildon.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what proportion of the 178,378 new houses and flats built in English new towns up to 30th September 1974 was originally built for sale, expressed both as a numerical and a percentage figure; what proportion was built for rent, but subsequently sold; and if he will give each of these figures for each separate new town, and in total.

The figure of 178,378 dwellings includes both development corporation dwellings and dwellings constructed for sale by private builders on land made available by corporations. In relation to dwellings built by development corporations, the latest available information, up to 31st March 1974, is as follows:

TABLE I
DWELLINGS BUILT FOR SALE BY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATIONS AND THE COMMISSION FOR THE NEW TOWNS
TownDwellings built for saleColumn 2 as a percentage of all dwellings built by each corporation or the Commission for the New Towns
(1)(2)(3)
Aycliffe120·2
Basildon2861·5
Bracknell8829·9
Central Lancashire0
Corby730·9
Crawley1,1789·0
Harlow1,2205·7
Hatfield3087·1
Hemel Hempstead2912·4
Milton Keynes422·8
Northampton0
Peterborough0
Peterlee350·5
Redditch682·2
Runcorn0
Skelmersdale1542·3
Stevenage940·5
Telford0
Warrington0
Washington3339·3
Welwyn1,21919·4
6,1954·0
TABLE II
SALES OF CORPORATION AND COMMISSION RENTED HOUSES AS A PERCENTAGE OF ALL CORPORATION OR COMMISSION HOUSES BUILT FOR RENT IN EACH NEW TOWN AS AT 30TH SEPTEMBER 1974
TownPercentage
(1)(2)
Aycliffe16·4
Basildon28·0
Bracknell13·2
Central Lancashire
Corby18·6
Crawley21·5
Harlow19·4
Hatfield17·7
Hemel Hempstead15·8
Milton Keynes11·3
Northampton6·2
Peterborough15·9
Peterlee6·1
Redditch2·2
Runcorn7·2
Skelmersdale8·1
Stevenage33·5
Telford0·8
Warrington0·5
Washington1·0
Welwyn17·5
Total18·0

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will list the new towns in which the proportion of owner-occupied houses is less than 10 per cent. of the total dwelling stock; and why he considers it imprudent for such new towns to offer rented housing for sale.

There are no English new towns where the proportion of owner-occupied houses is less than 10 per cent. of the total dwelling stock.