§ The Minister for Housing, Inner Cities and Construction (Sir George Young)
Government Departments are urged to make best use of their empty residential property, through disposal where possible, or by leasing to local housing providers. We encourage local authorities and housing associations to consider the scope for using empty Government-owned homes to meet housing need.
§ Mr. Soley
Is not it time to stop the nonsense whereby the Government dump thousands of empty Government-owned properties on to the private market and therefore depress house prices, which is bad for the economy? Through leaseback or other schemes, the Government could transfer those houses to housing associations and councils in areas such as Bromley, where there are empty Air Force homes at Biggin Hill, or Slough, where former Army and Air Force homes are empty. Two local authority areas could get people out of bed and breakfast, save money and help restore the economy.
§ Sir George Young
The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to learn that only last month 119 Ministry of Defence properties in Finningley were sold to the South Yorkshire housing association and that more than 1,000 MOD properties are on lease to local authorities or housing associations. It must be right for the MOD to put on the market those properties that it does not need and to give first-time home buyers the opportunity to acquire them. I see nothing wrong with that policy.
§ Mr. John Marshall
Does my right hon. Friend accept that housing need would be less if local authorities had fewer empty council homes? He will remember his visit to Hackney, where 9 per cent. of local authority housing stock is empty.
§ Sir George Young
My hon. Friend is right. There are 71,000 empty local authority homes. That is more than the total number of families in temporary accommodation. The main culprits are Labour-controlled local authorities. It would be in the interests of meeting those housing needs if we could make better use of the potential.