HC Deb 19 March 1990 vol 169 cc873-4
8. Mr. Livsey

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is the latest figure for homelessness in Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Grist

From October to December 1989, local authorities accepted 1,618 households as homeless.

Mr. Livsey

Does the Minister accept that homelessness in Wales is becoming far worse not only in urban areas but in rural areas? Does he agree that that is due to a lack of affordable housing in the rented sector in particular? During the 1970s, 8,000 council houses per year were built in Wales. Last year only 750 were built. Does he accept that Tai Cymru's target of 3,000 houses in the coming year is utterly inadequate to meet the needs of the 70,000 people on the housing list in Wales? What does the Welsh Office intend to do about this human tragedy to put it right? Will it enact a crash house building programme because that is what is required?

Mr. Grist

Of course this is a serious matter. That is why we have increased the money available to Tai Cymru by 40 per cent., increased the expenditure available to local authorities for building by 15 per cent. and announced measures for homelessness back in December. It is also why Tai Cymru gives such precedence to low-cost housing and other forms of entry into housing. We also expect more money to enter the housing system through shared arrangements between housing associations and other funding agencies, including councils.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Does my hon. Friend appreciate how unwise it would be to build houses, whether starter homes or other types, in areas where the drainage is manifestly incapable of dealing with the resulting problems, as in Towyn?

Mr. Grist

I should have thought that any builder who sought to build and to cover his building by a 10-year building guarantee in such circumstances would be most unwise. In any event, planning permission would probably not be given.

Dr. Kim Howells

Is the Minister aware that there are housing estates under construction now where builders sell the property on the basis that around the site there is a flood control zone? In other words, the dykes are part of the housing construction programme. Many people, including those in Tai Cymru, are extremely worried about that.

Mr. Grist

In those circumstances I, too, would be worried if I were a purchaser and I would seek to look into the circumstances in which my house was built. I imagine that the search would give some protection. If the hon. Gentleman would like to give me details, I will look into them.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

Does the Minister accept that the amount of money allocated to Tai Cymru in respect of low-cost housing this year is completely inadequate to meet the needs of the homeless in Wales? The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey) said that in his constituency he would need 1,000 homes to be built to meet the problems. I am sure that all hon. Members agree with those sentiments. Will the Minister examine schemes in England where building societies find ways to assist? For example, the Woolwich building society has set up an offshoot called Woolwich Homes. Will the Minister consider ways in which building societies in Wales could also assist in such projects?

Mr. Grist

Most certainly. I was pleased to open a housing development of sheltered houses and flats for students in my constituency at the weekend. For the first time ever, it involved one of the building societies—I cannot remember which—as well as the university and other sources of funding. I agree with the hon. Gentleman, but neither he nor anyone else should run away with the idea that there is a quick and easy answer to what is a social problem of serious dimensions.