HL Deb 20 November 1997 vol 583 cc94-6WA
Lord Acton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence performed against last year's targets for reducing empty government homes and what new targets have been set for 1997–98.

Baroness Hayman

The overall number of empty homes held by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office fell by 754 between 1 April 1996 and 1 April 1997. This welcome reduction reflects a 5.7 per cent. fall in the number of empty Ministry of Defence properties. Against this there was a small increase in the number of empty homes held by both the Home Office and the DETR, reflecting an unexpectedly high number of new vacancies coming on stream. The number of empty homes is still too high and this government are determined to improve on these figures in the future. We simply cannot afford to have substantial numbers of government-owned homes lying empty.

We have considered with other departments and interested parties such as the Empty Homes Agency how we might make better use of these properties and have investigated every opportunity for setting new, more challenging targets for this year as well as improving arrangements for the disposal process.

Total stock at 1.4.97 Total empty stock at 1.4.96 Total empty stock at 1.4.97 Target for percentage empty at 1.4.97 Achievement against target Target for percentage empty at 1.4.98 Target for percentage habitable homes empty more than 6 months at 1.4.97 Achievement against target Target for percentage habitable homes empty for more than 6 months at 1.4.98 Action being taken to dispose of Homes empty more than 6 months
Home Office 3,411 242 268 <6% 7.9% <5% 1% 10.9% (32) <1% 19 properties are in the process of being sold. Four being refurbished for reoccupation. Four under review for disposal. Five are in blocks of police quarters with police tenants being targeted.
Department of Transport, (now the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions) 3,120 669 690 <17% 22% <18% <7% 11.2% (350) <9% All properties currently vacant are in the process of being sold or let through managing agents.
Ministry of Defence 65,800 13,943 213,142 To dispose of 4,000 empty homes 4,987 To dispose of 1,000 empty homes


1. Properties that are "habitable" include all properties except:

(a) derelict properties that await demolition (e.g. to make way for road schemes).

(b) those that are expected to be demolished in the near future where the expenditure required to make them habitable would he disproportionate to their expected life (e.g. where substantial investment would he required to connect essential services such as water, sewage or electricity).

(c) those that cannot he made accessible (e.g. due to adjacent construction works).

1The Home Office has identified an under-reporting of this figure, because the Prison Service had previously understood that only homes surplus to operational requirements were to he included in the empty homes more than six months category. Consequently no central record has been kept of how long the non-surplus homes have been empty. The estimate is that up to 100 homes may have been missed from the previous reports, but that the current figure is considerably less than this as a result of a rigorous challenging of the non-surplus status. These homes will he included in future figures and are subject to 1997-98 targets.

2Of the 13,142 properties empty:—1,755 have already been identified for disposal; 3,364 were allocated to incoming families: 2,533 were empty pending major upgrade work; 633 had been identified as temporarily surplus with action in hand to lease out to local authorities or housing associations and; 1,117 were not available to dispose of or lease out as they were on military bases and subject to security constraints. If these properties are excluded front the total number of empty properties it leaves 3.740 properties, which represents 5.86 per cent. of MOD stock.

< = less than.

The Home Office target for this year is more stringent than last year's. The high figure of empty DETR (Highways Agency) properties is due, mainly, to the rundown of the roads programme with properties which had been bought, and were being let until needed, being vacated so that they could be sold. This year's targets for DETR reflect this fact and the failure to meet the April 1997 target. However, they represent a significant improvement over last year's achievements. The Ministry of Defence's target has been set a level which will continue the disposal of surplus properties while retaining the flexibility to react to any changes to the demand for service housing which may emerge from the findings of the Strategic Defence Review, due to report next year.

Details of achievements against targets for 1996-97, and new targets for 1997-98 are below. Details of the Welsh Office and Scottish Office performance are not shown in the table as they are reporting their figures separately. My honourable friends the Ministers for Housing in Scotland and Wales will, however, continue to report and remain committed to further reductions in the number of empty properties they own.