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Housing

Volume 889: debated on Wednesday 26 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will now give further advice to local authorities on the provision of houses.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I have issued a circular which brings a number of important aspects of the development of housing and planning policy to the attention of local authorities. In Circular 70/74, which was issued soon after the Government took office last year, we were concerned to secure a desperately needed expansion of public sector house building. We have made considerable progress since then.In the private sector, by providing special loan facilities for building societies last spring, we succeeded in avoiding a seemingly inevitable increase in the mortgage interest rate and in ensuring an adequate supply of mortgage funds with the aim of bringing about a recovery in building for owner occupation. I announced further measures to promote that objective on 27th January.This circular, "Housing: Needs and Action", represents a further stage in our attack on the housing problem, in which all forms of housing provision have a part to play. It emphasises that much greater attention ought henceforward to be given to the needs of small households, both by making fuller use of the existing housing stock and by devoting a larger proportion of new building to smaller dwellings.The Government are anxious that local authorities should give a fair wind to innovations, especially those which might provide people with the chance to get a first foothold on the housing ladder. In seeking ways of making better use of the existing stock of houses, local authorities should particularly consider simple conversions of suitable three-bedroom houses to provide accommodation for smaller households. Wider acceptance of lodgers also has a part to play. There is scope for the provision of mobile homes or other forms of housing which can be made available quickly in order to meet immediate needs.The circular asks planning authorities also to ensure that their policies and procedures will help people get homes at a price they can afford, and refers to promising developments in the provision of starter and extendable homes for smaller households.A number of measures are suggested which could help to speed up housing production and procedures to make better use of available resources without impairing acceptable standards. I believe, moveover, that local authorities should give proper scope for rationalised traditional and industrialised methods to supplement the more traditional forms of construction in their programmes. The circular further recommends that local authorities should seek savings in the use of building resources in providing car accommodation.The new circular does not and cannot offer final or definitive answers to what are essentially continuing problems. It represents, however, an important stage in what the Government intend to be a steady progression towards the provision of an adequate level of housing, which will meet the needs and aspirations of the community. I hope that the circular will stimulate the re-examination of a variety of ways in which all concerned might develop quicker and more effective means of meeting the challenge.