HC Deb 22 March 1989 vol 149 cc1077-8
6. Mr. French

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what was the level of home starts by housing associations at the latest date for which figures are available; and what is the level expected to be reached as a result of the increase in funding for the Housing Corporation announced in last year's Autumn Statement.

Mr. Ridley

A total of 14,651 approvals had been given by the Housing Corporation in the current financial year up to the end of February. In 1991–92 the corporation expects to approve more than 32,000 homes for rent and sale.

Mr. French

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the figures that he has given are ample proof of the housing associations' ability to provide affordable housing for those in need? Does he accept that the huge increase in public funding provided to the Housing Corporation, coupled with private finance and the management skills within the housing associations is enabling those housing associations to achieve an impact on local provision which has not been emulated by many local authorities?

Mr. Ridley

The figures show that the gross provision for the Housing Corporation programme was £1,328 million for 1991–92—an 80 per cent. increase on the original provision for the current financial year. That has since been increased by a further £40 million because of greater than expected capital receipts. That is a massive expansion. I agree with my hon. Friend that it should make a very great contribution, particularly as it is possible to target it on the areas of greatest need.

Mr. George Howarth

Will the Secretary of State confirm that in areas of low values or high costs housing associations are having difficulty making private finance work and that the only way in which they can make it work is by reducing standards?

Mr. Ridley

The areas of greatest need are not the areas of lowest cost. When I said that it is important to target finance, I had in mind the comments made by the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends, that the main problem of shortage of rented houses arises in the south-east and London. That seems to tie up very nicely.

Mr. Key

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his housing associations policy, which is reaching the village communities that we are anxious to preserve in rural constituencies. Will he confirm that private finance was introduced in a new way to the housing scene under the Housing Act 1988? Is he aware that locally politicians are anxious to promote new concepts of private finance, which they opposed when the Housing Bill was before the House, and that a scurrilous and dishonest campaign is being led by the Democrats in Wiltshire?

Mr. Ridley

The latter, including the adjectives, would not surprise me in the least. I confirm that we hope that by 1991–92, about 80 per cent. of schemes will be mixed funded. Total public provision will not only be increased by 80 per cent. it will be greatly enhanced by whatever private finance can be attracted to swell it still further. This is by far the best way to obtain value for money. I hope that all authorities—even Liberal, Democratic or whatever they are called—will realise the importance of these new measures.