asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many houses are blocked up in the Belfast area; and what plans are in hand to recover these and make them habitable.
There are about 3,000 blocked-up houses in the Belfast area outside current or proposed redevelopment areas. The Housing Executive has already taken steps to bring some of its own houses back into use and has further rehabilitation schemes in hand.However, the major part of the problem lies in the areas of older housing owned by private landlords or owner-occupiers. The Housing Executive is considering acquiring the blocked-up houses in two carefully selected pilot areas with a view to repairing and letting them. In addition, the executive is purchasing blocked-up and empty houses for families on the emergency housing list or families displaced from redevelopment areas which it cannot otherwise rehouse.
Is the Minister aware that the figure he has given is not very acceptable to groups which have taken this problem as seriously as he has done and which estimate that there are about 8,000 blocked-up houses? Will he also accept that these houses depreciate the value of nearby property?
I mentioned a figure of 3,000 houses in proposed redevelopment areas. There are a further 6,400 dwellings which have been closed in these areas under the housing and planning legislation. I do not accept the situation and would like to see every house inhabited. I am not a proud chap, and if the Opposition will back me in future housing legislation I shall take over these dwellings in order to rehouse people.
Are these houses subject to Government compensation? Will my hon. Friend say how much compensation has been paid as a whole for each year from 1969 to the present day?
My hon. Friend is referring to compensation of a different kind. I shall write to him giving the figures for which he asks.