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House Building

Volume 87: debated on Monday 18 November 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales what steps he is taking to seek to ensure that the level of house building meets the current demand and anticipated demand.


asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the latest number of housing starts in Wales this year.

Substantial resources are available to local authorities for housing. So far as new house building in the public sector is concerned, the Government are giving priority to the housing associations, whose starts in the first nine months of this year were 200 per cent. higher than in the same period of 1984. Local authority spending, on the other hand, has changed emphasis towards much needed renovation of the existing stock.

In all, 6,418 housing starts were reported in the first nine months of 1985.

A year ago the Minister's predecessor told me that 11,000 new units of accommodation were required each year to keep pace with demand. Each year since 1980 we have failed to come near that total. Does the Welsh Office realise that that accummulated deficit, year on year, is building up an increasing housing crisis?

We have not changed our overall objectives. Last year's completions, which totalled 9,209, were the best since 1980.

Now that the Minister's answers have revealed the desperate position being faced by the homeless in Wales, will he reveal just a little more and tell us how much of the Chancellor's largesse is likely to come back to Wales for housing? When will we receive the proceeds from the sale of council houses promised repeatedly by his right hon. Friend? When will that money be spent on council housing and housing generally in Wales?

My right hon. Friend is at this moment considering the implications of the Chancellor's autumn statement for Wales. An announcement will be made at the appropriate time.

As regards capital receipts on the sale of council houses, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the 1980 legislation made it clear that those receipts would not be available for spend in any one year. They are linked to the overall position on capital spending, and they remain so.

Is my hon. Friend in a position to assess the performance of the various housing authorities in the light of the resources available to them?

We believe that housing associations are making a substantial contribution to housing in Wales. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will bear that in mind when making allocations in the coming year.

Why are Welsh housing authorities allowed to spend only 15 per cent. of their council house sale receipts, while English authorities are allowed to spend 20 per cent.?

As I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware, it is a combination of allocation. The fact that local authorities are allowed to spend 15 per cent. in the coming year is reflected in the overall sums that come from central Government sources.

By playing with percentages, the Minister has shown a substantial increase in the number of starts in the housing association sector, but will he address himself in greater detail to the question posed by his hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Sir R. Gower) and study the role of the housing associations in Wales? Will he give an assurance that, in the allocation, there will be a further substantial increase to meet the needs of housing in Wales and also the commitment which the housing associations tell us they can fulfil?

The current programme for the Housing Corporation this year was £43 million. As I said earlier, my right hon. Friend is considering the allocations for the coming year, but he is already on record as saying that increased resources for housing are a priority.

It was encouraging to read last week's statement by the South Wales House-Builders Federation about the record progress in house building, but I noticed that its only major constraint was the availability of land. For that reason, or any other, has my hon. Friend instructed local councils to sell certain school playing fields?

It is not our policy to instruct councils on the manner in which they should use their resources or dispose of surplus land. However, where councils have surplus land, it is our policy to encourage them to sell it.