HC Deb 02 November 1988 vol 139 cc1003-4
1. Mr. Tony Lloyd

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will give details of the number of housing starts in the north-west region between 1979 and 1987.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. David Trippier)

One hundred and sixty-four thousand seven hundred dwellings were started in the north west in the nine years 1979 to 1987. In 1987 there were 14,500 private sector starts—more than 2,000 more than in 1979.

Mr. Lloyd

Will the Minister confirm that in every year under this Government the rate of housing starts in the north west has been as low as two thirds of what it was in the last full year of the Labour Government? The Government claim, perhaps truthfully, that the private sector has made up for the public sector in the south-east, but that is massively untrue of the north west.

Does the Minister accept that every credible survey of housing—the Duke of Edinburgh, the Institute of Housing and the local authorities' inquiries—has said that there is massive under-investment nationally in housing, particularly in the north-west? When will the Government do something serious about the approaching housing crisis in that region?

Mr. Trippier

What really matters is that the total stock, public and private sector, has increased since 1979. The number of households in the north-west increased in the last years on record—1981 to 1986—by 2.3 per cent., compared with an increase in dwelling stock of 60,000, or 2.4 per cent. Therefore, the growth in dwelling stock has more than kept pace with the growth in the number of households, which is the most important point. In the same period, the population in the north-west declined slightly.

Mr. Burt

My hon. Friend will know of the need in the north-west, as in many other parts of the country, for low-cost rental accommodation. Bearing in mind the Government's justifiable concern about the way in which some local authorities manage their housing stock, may I ask what the Government are doing to boost housing associations, which greatly contribute to low-cost rental housing? Will more be done for them in the north-west?

Mr. Trippier

My hon. Friend will know that, in the Housing Bill, we are directing more resources to the housing corporations, and thus to housing associations. He should draw comfort, as I am sure do many Conservative Members, from the substantial increase made available by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday—a rise of £1.328 billion by 1991, which is 80 per cent. above this year's estimated outturn.

Mr. Alton

Does the Minister agree that one way of providing more homes for people on waiting lists would be to liberate under-occupied properties? The key to that is to build more sheltered accommodation for the ever-increasing number of elderly people in our region. Does the hon. Gentleman also agree, based on his recent visit to Liverpool, that the key to good management of properties is to hand them over to tenants, and that a good way of doing that is through housing co-operatives?

Mr. Trippier

The hon. Gentleman is certainly right. The Government are keen on housing co-operatives, and at the moment we are studying the under-occupation of dwellings. We need to address our minds to that problem. The current review on homelessness will be a major feature in the decisions that we shall eventually reach.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Will my hon. Friend pay a well-deserved tribute to the stirling work of the Abbeyfields Society, which has just opened another charming home in Lancaster and is hoping shortly to build one at Garstang?

Mr. Trippier

I am happy to concur with my hon. Friend. The Abbeyfields housing association is incredibly well known, especially in the region from which my hon. Friend and I come and represent. I am delighted to put on record my praise for that organisation.

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