HC Deb 22 January 1992 vol 202 c297
2. Mr. Pike

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent discussions his Department has had with local authorities and housing associations in relation to outstanding demand for sheltered housing.

Sir George Young

My Department has discussions with local authorities and the housing association movement throughout the year, covering a wide range of housing issues, including sheltered housing.

Mr. Pike

Does the Minister accept that there is still a widespread shortage of sheltered housing, especially affordable housing for elderly people to rent? Will he give greater priority to that provision, and also ensure that more emphasis is placed on the need for housing to be provided in areas that elderly people know, rather than several miles away at the other end of town? It is important for old people to continue to live in the areas that they know.

Sir George Young

In the past 12 years there has been an 86 per cent. increase in the provision of sheltered housing, which now accounts for some 2.5 per cent. of housing stock. It is true that, because of demographic change, we shall need to make appropriate housing provision for frail and elderly people, but I am not persuaded that sheltered housing is the only option: many people will prefer to remain in their own homes, where the necessary adaptations can be made and the necessary support can be given. To obtain more information on the subject, we have commissioned a study from Ernst and Young, which we hope to publish in July this year. That study will shed more light on the range, quality and quantity of accommodation that the elderly need.

Mr. David Nicholson

My hon. Friend will be aware of the shortage of sheltered housing and other forms of low-cost accommodation in my constituency and elsewhere in the southern counties. Although the housing association movement has made important and valuable progress, it still cannot meet all the demands. My hon. Friend may also know that, in my constituency and elsewhere, there is all-party support for a continuing role for efficient local authorities, working effectively with the private sector, in the building and refurbishment of low-cost housing. Will he consider the matter urgently?

Sir George Young

The Housing Corporation continues to allocate a substantial share of its resources to sheltered housing: this year, about £130 million is being made available for that purpose. We envisage an enabling role for local authorities; certainly, it is their responsibility to ensure that there is adequate provision in their areas for elderly people in housing need. They may wish to discharge that responsibility in a number of ways—for instance, working with housing associations, using their planning powers and building under licence. It is up to them to use the totality of the resources at their disposal to meet the social challenge outlined by my hon. Friend.