HC Deb 30 April 1980 vol 983 cc1355-6
4. Mr. Beith

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he has made of the total effect of his policies on local young families seeking housing accommodation in rural areas.

The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr. John Stanley)

Apart from local authority programmes, our policies to increase the availability of private rented accommodation and to encourage low-cost home ownership schemes will benefit the rural areas.

Mr. Beith

What hope is there for the young family on low wages in rural areas where outside demand for retirement homes and holiday accommodation pushes up the price of housing? What will be the position of those young people who cannot afford a mortgage, even at a lower interest rate than the present rate, when local authorities are obliged to sell their housing stock without any prospect of building other houses to replace those that have been sold?

Mr. Stanley

The hon. Member should look at our programme for encouraging low-cost home ownership, including shared ownership. That provides a good means whereby people on low incomes can reach a stage which will eventually phase into home ownership.

Mr. Gummer

Does not my hon. Friend admit that one of the problems in rural areas is that there are empty houses available which are not let because owners are afraid that they may not be able to regain possession should they need a property, for example, for farm workers, who need to be on the spot? Would it not be reasonable to go further than the present Housing Bill and allow the Housing Acts to be permissive if a local authority believes that in its area the Housing Acts cut down the number of properties available to let?

Mr. Stanley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He will be aware that the vacant property survey, to which my right hon. Friend referred, addresses itself to the extent to which properties were being held vacant as a result of the operation of the Rent Acts. I think that the House will await with great interest the results of the survey which are to be published shortly.

Mr. Haynes

Is the Secretary of State aware that, because of Government policy over the sale of council houses, many areas are seriously affected—by way of long waiting lists—because local authorities are having difficulties in selling houses? Some of those properties are empty for as long as a year. Does the Secretary of State recall standing at the Despatch Box and telling off Nottingham city council which owns properties that have been standing empty for over a year? That council has now run into debt.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The question is concerned with rural areas.

Mr. Stanley

The burden of the hon. Gentleman's question, as I heard it, was that he was complaining about delays in selling council houses. I assure him that it is our intention to make the administrative process as expeditious as possible.