§ Mr. Alton
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many private and public sector properties are currently vacant in the city of Liverpool; what incentives he will provide to Liverpool city council to introduce homesteading schemes; what penalties he will impose on private and public sector landlords who fail to let properties; what is the estimated annual rent and community charge lost on empty private and public sector properties(a) throughout the United Kingdom and (b) in Liverpool; if he will meet leaders of Liverpool city council to discuss a plan of action; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Baldry
[pursuant to his answer, 3 June 1992, c. 542]: At 1 April 1991, the number of vacant properties in Liverpool was 5,733 local authority, 843 housing association and 7,908 privately owned.
As far as local authority stock is concerned, the housing subsidy rules penalise those councils that have more than 2 per cent. of their stock empty and reward those who do better. To further encourage best use of housing resources the Department will be introducing a pilot scheme to promote homesteading of local authority stock, linked with the estate action programme. For private homes, we do not believe that property owners should be forced to let accommodation against their will but our policies are geared to creating the conditions to encourage landlords to let their properties.
The estimated rent loss, for 1991–92, on empty public sector properties was over £136 million for England and £6.4 million for Liverpool. There are no figures available for the private sector.
There are no personal community charge losses on empty properties although the council can levy a standard community charge on most unoccupied domestic properties. This can act as an incentive for landlords to find tenants.
My right hon. and learned Friend will be replying shortly to an invitation from Councillor Harry Rimmer, leader of Liverpool city council, to visit the city. The estate action programme and the vacant dwellings initiative and the prospect of a housing action trust are examples of joint initiatives tackling the city's housing problems. In addition, the council's success in round one of city challenge will lead to a major transformation in the city centre with substantial benefits for its residents.