HL Deb 14 October 1991 vol 531 cc940-2

2.47 p.m.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether housing associations with funding from the Housing Corporation are meeting the shortfall in social housing previously supplied by local authorities.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, housing associations are meeting the majority of housing needs although there are shortages in some areas. Public resources for housing associations are set to rise to over £2 billion by 1993–94. Together with associations' new ability to use private investment, this will enable their output to increase from 21,500 dwellings last year to around 40,000 by 1993–94.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the figures mentioned by the noble Viscount are nowhere near sufficient to rehouse all those people on local authority housing registers up and down the country? Homelessness is a national scandal in this country. Is the Minister satisfied that housing associations can take the place of local authorities in trying to rid this country of homelessness?

Viscount Astor

My Lords, I believe that the amount of money being spent will go a long way towards solving the problem but it is not the only action which the Government are taking in trying to solve the housing problem. Capital expenditure on housing investment by local authorities and housing associations is expected to be over £4.5 billion in 1991–92. Housing revenue subsidy is £3.7 billion and Housing Corporation expenditure will increase. There is also more money for low cost rural housing and estate action, and extra money to help the homeless in London and the South East.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is the noble Viscount aware that under Macmillan, 300,000 houses were built in one year? Have the present Conservative Government and their predecessors managed to equal that in the past 10 years?

Viscount Astor

My Lords, house building depends on housing need. The introduction of the right to buy in 1980 has helped over 1 million families in this country to become home owners. Most of those people who bought their homes are extremely happy in them.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, does the Minister accept that all those working in the vitally important social field of providing housing, whether in housing associations or in local government, need encouragement and support, not denigration? They also need adequate resources.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, I agree with the right reverend Prelate. Those people need support and adequate resources, which they receive from this Government.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, perhaps I can clear up one anomaly. From what has been said in the past, I understand that the money realised from the sale of council houses and flats, which I support, cannot be used for housing by the councils which receive it. Is that correct? If so, it is a ridiculous situation.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, the noble Lord is not correct. Local authorities are free to spend 25 per cent. of he using capital receipts on new capital expenditure, the remaining 75 per cent. going to help pay off their debts.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, will the Minister give some indication of his department's commitment to co-operative housing? For example, has his department ever considered setting a target for capital allocations for housing co-operatives? They perform a valuable service in the housing sector.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, that is a technical area and I cannot give the noble Baroness an answer. However, I shall look into the matter.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the Minister spoke of housing need and boasted that the output of the housing associations was to increase from 21,000 to 40,000. How do those figures compare with the fact that 170,000 families—that is 500,000 people of whom half are children—were accepted by local authorities last year as being homeless? Is it not the case that both by that measure and in the light of the fact that council housing is at its lowest level since 1914, the Government are going nowhere near far enough to meet housing needs?

Viscount Astor

My Lords, that is not the only action we are taking. We announced a pilot scheme using housing associations to manage the properties of private landlords to encourage them to increase the rentals of their properties. We are spending money on a number of matters to bring houses onto the market, including houses that are empty at the moment, whether owned privately or by local authorities.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, I thank the Minister for the figures he has given us this afternoon. Can he say how many individuals and families from local authority lists were housed by housing associations through Housing Corporation finance?

Viscount Astor

My Lords, I do not possess the exact figures. However, I shall look into the matter and write to the noble Baroness.

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