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Empty Housing

Volume 885: debated on Wednesday 5 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he can give about the performance of local authorities in dealing with empty houses and flats.

About 4,100 empty properties have been bought under Circular 70/74 by local authorities in the first half of this financial year. A number of local authorities are organising special quick repair and lettings services. About 90 local authorities are levying 100 per cent. rates on empty properties. I am examining further initiatives which might be taken to increase the use of empty properties generally.

Will the Minister direct his attention to empty houses and flats which are already in the possession of local authorities? Will he endeavour to galvanise those local authorities into dealing with them urgently? Is he aware of reports of about half a million houses and flats in the possession of local authorities which are empty? Are these figures correct? If they are not, what are the correct figures and what are the Government going to do about this situation?

The end-of-year survey which has been undertaken over a number of years shows, according to the latest figures, that the hon. Member's figure is erroneous. The figure is about 1 per cent. of the total stock—that is, 1 per cent. of 5½ million.

The figure is about 1 per cent. of the 5½, million dwellings owned by local authorities. As for chasing up local authorities I shall be considering, as I have suggested, what steps I can take. I urge the hon. Member to turn his attention to his own local authority, where, I understand, about 1,000 empty properties have been on the market for more than six months and these could have been purchased by the local authority if it set its mind to the task.

Will my hon. Friend consider proposals which were put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) last week to give local authorities power to requisition properties in order that homeless people might be housed in them?

I have considered requisitioning on a number of occasions over the past year. Each time I have come to the conclusion, having studied the matter very closely, that this would not be an effective way of achieving the objective I wish to achieve. However, I certainly hope to come to the House and announce initiatives in this area not too long from now.