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Volume 931: debated on Thursday 12 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will outline the measures he is considering to increase the housing options in Northern Ireland.

Priority must continue to be given in the allocation of resources to those in greatest housing need. I believe, however, that more should be done to encourage owner-occupation and to develop alternative forms of tenure to bridge the gap between owner-occupation and renting. There are a number of possibilities.

There might, for instance, be an option mortgage scheme in Northern Ireland like that in Great Britain. There could be greater scope for co-operatives, co-ownership and equity-sharing. I am reviewing the categories of public sector dwellings which might be sold to tenants. I also believe that owner-occupation would have a role to play in the new drive to tackle the problems of Belfast.

Does my hon. Friend agree that Northern Ireland is suffering from one of the most appalling housing problems in Western Europe? Does he agree that a young married couple have no chance of getting council accommodation because of the rehabilitation redevelopment schemes that are taking place? Can he announce any measures to alleviate the distress of these young people, and what help can be given to enable them to purchase their own accommodation?

I hope that what I have already said indicates that we share my hon. Friend's concern about young married couples and low-wage earners who want to purchase their own homes. In Belfast we shall be doing all we can within the rehabilitation redevelopment programme, for example, to encourage a diversity of the housing stock, and we shall do what we can to encourage more home owner-occupation, greater competition in the private sector and so on.

Will the Minister take steps to ensure that in the allocation of houses proper preference is given to local people, particularly to young married couples who see new homes being erected in my constituency and then see them snatched away by outsiders who have no connection with the area? That creates a real hardship for them.

I do not agree that this is a question of hardship, because most people on the housing waiting list ultimately get accommodation. I am aware of the criticisms of the points scheme. and it is currently being reviewed. Hopefully, the problem referred to by the hon. Gentleman can be dealt with within that review.

What about Question No. 15? On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am here.

The hon. Member's Question has been answered, and I called him for a supplementary question.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Some of us are waiting to hear the Minister's answer to Question No. 15.

That question was answered with Question No. 3. I called the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) for a supplementary question because his Question was answered.