To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action he plans to take to support local authorities wishing to convert derelict land, vacant offices and difficult-to-let shops, in town and city centre areas, into housing units. 
Local authorities are responsible for drawing up housing strategies that set out how they intend to meet local housing needs. In drawing up these strategies, they have to assess the need for additional housing as well as other housing needs. They then have to consider how to use the resources available to them, both financial and other, to meet those needs. It is for the local authority to decide the best way of using available resources to the benefit of their residents and tenants while achieving the best value for money.To assist local authorities meet housing needs we have recently made available additional resources through the Capital Receipts Initiative to assist with housing and housing related regeneration. Over £600 million will be available in England in 1998–99.More specifically, as far as local authority assets are concerned, in April this year the capital finance system was relaxed so that if an authority disposes of certain assets, more of the capital receipt can be recycled into regeneration schemes in deprived areas rather than being set aside for debt redemption. Assets covered by the concession are unoccupied council dwellings (except those sold under right-to-buy or large scale voluntary transfer), occupied industrial estates, docks and harbours, leisure facilities, shops and offices and land for development. Receipts from the sale of these assets can be applied to regeneration schemes in listed wards and wards adjacent to listed wards.In addition, planning policy guidance notes, both on housing (PPG3) and on town centres and retail developments (PPG6), advise local planning authorities, where appropriate, to reallocate land allocated for other uses to housing, and to encourage conversions of vacant offices and vacant accommodation over shops by taking a flexible approach to residential car parking and other standards.