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Empty Dwellings

Volume 81: debated on Monday 17 June 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what policy initiatives he proposes to promote a reduction in the current level of vacancies in the private housing sector; and if he will make a statement.

The Government want to encourage private owners to let empty property. As my right hon. Friend said in reply to the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) on 12 June, it is hoped to introduce legislation to encourage the supply of more private sector homes to rent but probably not during the lifetime of this Parliament. Meanwhile, I hope that the owners of empty property will recognise the advantages of letting it rather than leaving it empty, and that they will not overlook the possibility of using shorthold.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he proposes, in the light of the findings of his Department's recent report "Local Authority Empty Dwellings" (a) to reduce the vacancy level of 6·9 per cent. in Government-owned and managed housing and (b) to seek to reduce the vacancy level of 2·3 per cent. in local authority dwellings.

My Department will shortly issue a circular to local authorities setting out ways in which better management can help to reduce numbers of empty dwellings. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has also restored eligibility for housing association grant (Mini-HAG) to local authority short-life dwellings.The circular will be sent to Government Departments and a range of other public sector bodies (to whom as a group the figure of 6·9 per cent. relates) to emphasise once again the need to ensure that vacant housing stock is put back into use or sold at the earliest opportunity.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if, in the light of paragraph 6·2 of his Department's recent report "Local Authority Empty Dwellings" he will introduce legislation to impose upon all local authorities the obligation to place applicants accepted as homeless in accommodation of no lower a standard than that provided for other applicants; and if he will make a statement.

My right hon. Friend has no plans to introduce such legislation. It is for local authorities to decide how to fulfil their obligations towards people for whom they have accepted responsibility under the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977. As my Department's code of guidance makes clear, the possibilities include the use of their own stock or housing association of private sector property, but authorities are asked to avoid obliging homeless people to spend a certain period in interim accommodation as a matter of policy, and are advised to bear in mind relevant provisions of general housing and public health legislation.