§ 2. Mr. Anderson
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what estimate he now makes of the current levels of demand and the anticipated annual levels over the next 20 years for housing; and whether current and anticipated levels of building and renovation will meet that demand.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wyn Roberts)
Estimates made in 1982 and based on 1979 material suggested a need for 12,000 new units and the rehabilitation of some 6,500 unfit dwellings per annum up to the end of the century. However, more recent population projections indicate a decline in the forecast number of households over the period. This, together with the outstanding success of our renovation grant initiative, will have considerably affected our earlier projection, and a new assessment is in hand. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman when the results are available.
§ Mr. Anderson
Is the Under-Secretary of State seriously suggesting that the revised population forecasts will make the expected target substantially lower than 20,000? It is clear that, even with the likely revised figure of household formation and demographic change, year on year we shall still fall very short of the demand for housing in Wales. Are not the Government increasingly building up distress and misery for people seeking housing in Wales?
§ Mr. Roberts
The hon. Gentleman is taking far too gloomy a view of housing. The figures to which we have both referred relate to the period before the grants boom. He must understand the impact of that boom. Some 40,000 repair grants have been approved. We are currently spending £206 million this year on housing. That compares with £96 million and £140 million, respectively, in each of the last two years.
§ Sir Raymond Gower
While a considerable demand for housing must remain, is not the greatest threat and handicap to providing housing rising inflation, which would cause problems for local authorities and private individuals who seek to own their own homes?
§ Mr. Roberts
My hon. Friend is right. The prime concern of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to ensure that the progress we have made in reducing inflation is maintained. He took a helpful step towards helping the construction industry when he made changes to stamp duty.
§ Mr. Barry Jones
Is it not repugnant that housing association starts next year are to be slashed by 33 per cent. — about 1,650 starts? Does that not make a mockery of the capability and capacity of housing associations to provide 6,000 houses a year? Does the Minister know that the Building Employers Confederation in Wales has denounced the position and pointed out that VAT on building will lead not just to less building but to many redundancies in the building trade?
§ Mr. Roberts
I have already referred to the changes in stamp duty, which are of considerable help to the construction industry. The £41.5 million to be spent next year by the Housing Corporation must be related to £127 million allocated to local authorities. That, together with their capital receipts, will mean a total spend of about £150 million. In addition, we are spending £13.5 million through urban development grants. That will result in priming six private sector schemes involving the building of 563 houses.