HC Deb 19 December 1975 vol 902 cc899-900W
Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment why he has not yet taken steps to bring empty houses and flats into occupation since this was promised by the Minister for Housing and Construction early in the year as a measure to deal with the problem; what measures he now proposes; and if they will include requisitioning in certain circumstances.

Mr. Armstrong

Making better use of the housing stock, including empty property, is a continuing objective of housing policy.

We re-emphasised earlier this year that purchases of dwellings that have been empty for more than six months in areas of serious overall shortage, purchases intended to relieve homelessness, remain a top priority category in our municipalisation programme. We redirected resources for improvement, conversion, and repair to such properties and areas. Our circular "Housing: Needs and Action" encouraged the provision of more small units, particularly by the conversion of large under-occupied houses, and discouraged restrictions on council tenants who wish to let off vacant space.

The Department in the summer sent a consultative document on a range of measures for the existing stock to the local authority associations and other representative bodies concerned and discussed it with them. We shall issue a circular on the better use of the existing housing stock early next year which will build on this work.

In addition, a special examination is now being carried out by Sir Dennis Filcher and Mr. Derek Wood into the scope for bringing more privately owned property into social use by leasing. We have considered carefully how new powers might operate in practice, and whether they would be any more effective in securing housing for those in need than measures of an administrative or managerial nature operated within existing powers. So far, we have taken the view that they would not. But if it becomes clear that we are not making proper headway against the problem of empty homes, then we will not hesitate to consider introducing new and realistic powers to deal with the situation.