HC Deb 18 May 2004 vol 421 cc843-6W
Mrs. Spelman

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many homes in the United Kingdom were classed as overcrowded in each year since 1997, broken down by area. [173698]

Keith Hill

The information requested is not held centrally, and could only be provided at disproportionate cost. Only 2 per cent. of households are overcrowded nationally; this means that annual estimates, derived from sample surveys such as the Survey of English Housing or the Family Resources Survey, of such a small target population are subject to considerable sampling error. For this reason reliable annual estimates cannot be produced at regional or sub-regional level.

Although annual estimates cannot be produced at regional and sub-regional level, estimates can be produced for several years combined. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has recently produced two research reports into levels of overcrowding for the years 2000–01, 2001–02, 2002–03 combined, which are available on our website and the path to reach them is: "Home">"Housing">"Housing research">"Housing research reports">"The impact of overcrowding on health and education".

Clive Efford

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps he is taking to assist teachers in London with housing costs; what the reasons were for changing from 1 April the criteria by which teachers qualify for assistance with housing costs in London; and if he will make a statement. [173461]

Keith Hill

The Key Worker Living (KWL) programme which started on 1 April 2004 is helping teachers in London into home ownership and intermediate rented accommodation. It also offers teachers who are existing home owners help to buy a larger home to meet their household needs. The programme superseded the Starter Home Initiative which came to an end on 31 March.

The assistance available under KWL is:

  1. (a) equity loans of up to £50,000 to buy a home on the open market or a newly-built property provided by a registered social landlord;
  2. (b) equity loans of up to £100,000 for school teachers in London with the potential to become leaders of London's education sector in the future;
  3. (c) shared ownership of newly-built properties where a share of the property is purchased and a reduced rent is paid on the remaining share;
  4. (d) intermediate renting of newly-built properties where the rent is set at a level below market rents.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has not changed the eligibility criteria for the scheme: school teachers in London with seven or more points are eligible for up to £100,000 equity loan assistance; school teachers and Further Education teachers are also eligible for up to £50 000 equity loan assistance. Points are awarded under the scheme for: being an advanced skills teacher, a Commissioner's teacher, on the fast track teaching programme or past the Threshold; teaching in a shortage subject or in a challenging school; having management or leadership responsibilities.

The eligibility criteria and the points system for the KWL programme were devised following discussions with the key worker sponsor Departments including Department for Education and Skills.

A key aim of KWL is to retain more experienced teachers in London. Since the scheme was launched we have received over 1,600 applications in London. As the KWL budget is limited, school teachers in London with four points or more are being prioritised for assistance, and those with less than four points are being placed on the waiting list for assistance.

Officials of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister are keeping the situation under review and expectations are that some teachers on the waiting list will receive assistance as the scheme progresses.

Colin Burgon

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he expects to receive the final business case covering the Pathfinder scheme for Swarcliffe. [173934]

Keith Hill

Leeds City Council is aiming to submit a Final Business Case to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for late May or early June 2004.

Mr. Austin Mitchell

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the cost was of gap funding for housing transfers in each year since it was introduced; and what the projected costs are for the next financial year. [173666]

Keith Hill

No gap funding has been paid to date. Regional Housing Boards (RHB) provisional allocations for 2004–05 are £1.029 million for the transfer of housing on the Tarling Estate and £1.759 million on the Crossways Estate both in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Provisional allocations for 2005–06 are a further £3.564 million for the transfer of housing on the Crossways Estate in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and £2.0 million for the transfer of the housing stock of North East Lincolnshire Council.

Mr. Austin Mitchell

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what his estimate is of the annual cost of the extra gap funding he has announced for housing transfers in areas with negative equity; and whether gap funding allocations will be increased for such areas already in the process of transfer. [173667]

Keith Hill

The annual cost of any gap funding will be dependent on those authorities whose decent home delivery option appraisal determines that a negative value transfer is the best value for money option to pursue and who then secure a positive tenant ballot result. Those transfers already on the housing transfer programme have demonstrated they have deliverable transfer schemes and it is not anticipated that they should therefore require gap funding.

Mr. Austin Mitchell

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much money has been committed to date for setting up arm's length management organisations for housing transfer; and on what basis this is allocated. [173668]

Keith Hill

Expenditure under the arm's length management organisation (Almo) programme to the end of 2003–04 has been approximately £365 million. Current commitments for 2004–05 and 2005–06 total £952 million, subject in some cases to Almos achieving at least a 2* rating from the Housing Inspectorate. Further allocations are subject to the outcome of the 2004 Spending Review. Expenditure on setting up Almos is a matter for the local authorities concerned. Under the Almo option the local authority remains the owner and landlord of the housing stock: no transfer of ownership occurs. Almo funding for work towards the Government's Decent Homes target is allocated on the basis of local authorities' bids, which are assessed against the criteria set out in the Almo Guidance published in March 2003.

Mr. Austin Mitchell

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how he has advised tenants who have rejected arm's length management organisations or transfers of housing stock to rethink their decision; what proposals he has for facilitating this; and what sanctions and resources he proposes to bring to bear to facilitate rethinking. [173695]

Keith Hill

Where tenants have rejected transfer and arm's length management organisations prior to local authorities being required to have an option appraisal signed off by Government Offices they will be asked to undertake an option appraisal. Guidance on option appraisal makes it clear that local authorities should engage with their tenants from the very beginning of the option appraisal process. The decision on which option to pursue should therefore incorporate the views of tenants before any ballot is held. Effective tenant engagement is a key criterion of the option appraisal assessment process and appraisals will not be signed off unless this has been achieved.

The Community Housing Task Force (CHTF) is the main resource available to assist councils and their tenants in delivering option appraisals. Tenants may also seek advice from their Independent Tenant Adviser (ITA). Further training and capacity building for tenants to help them with options appraisal is funded by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and provided via the Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS), PEP and the National Tenants Resource Centre (NTRC).

If tenants subsequently reject all options that deliver extra resources and the option appraisal process has been effectively undertaken then the wishes of the tenants will be respected and they will not be forced into accepting the options available.