asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many labourers' cottages in Northern Ireland have been sold to sitting tenants by the Housing Executive; and what was the average price in 1973 and 1974.
The Northern Ireland Housing Executive advises that 348 cottages were sold to sitting tenants up to 31st December 1974. The average price was £594 in 1973 and £767 in 1974.
Is the Minister aware that the houses were built more than 50 years ago at a total cost of £150? Does he realise that there were no facilities in them and that facilities were subsequently provided at the expense of the tenants, who have remained virtually the same families throughout? Is he aware that the houses are being offered for sale this year at £3,000? Taking into account all inflationary factors, how can people be convinced that there is nothing wrong when in 1974 they were offered for sale at approximately £700 and they are now being offered for sale at £3,000?
The average figures which I have given cover a wide range. In 1974 prices ranged from £170 in some cases to £2,700 in others. We are ruled by the district valuer's assessment.
Will the Minister seriously consider as a matter of urgency the decision to sell cottages to sitting tenants? Many of the families have lived in the cottages for two or even three generations. They have certainly bought the cottages by now. Many of them would wish to keep the cottages in their families.
That is the position despite the remark of my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). Will the Minister please urgently consider this matter?
The Housing Executive has put its review policy to me for a decision. I hope to make a decision upon that policy in the near future.
Is the Minister aware that when the Housing Executive offered these houses to sitting tenants it made the proviso that they must be brought up to proper standards within two years, but that when the sitting tenants said "No, we will continue to be tenants. Will you bring up the houses to the proper standards?" the Housing Executive said "Certainly not"?
The rehabilitation of these houses is a matter of great concern. The Housing Executive has put to me some new proposals which I am considering. I think that in the interim my announcement on 13th January will help in this respect.