asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will take steps to make a survey of all houses which have been vacant for more than two months; and if he will introduce legislation permitting local authorities to purchase such houses compulsorily and let them at reasonable rents, except where there are special reasons for the continued vacancy.
Local authorities have a duty to review housing conditions and needs in their districts. Under existing legislation they have power to acquire vacant houses by agreement or compulsorily, if they need them to fulfil their housing responsibilities.
Is my hon. Friend aware that it is bitterly galling to the homeless to see tens of thousands of houses lying empty usually because the owners are holding out for a high price and that meanwhile vandals break into the houses and rats and rubbish accumulate, causing great nuisance to the neighbours?
I quite accept that, when a person is in great need of a house of his own, to see property empty is, as my hon. Friend describes it, a galling experience. All I can say to him is that we believe that the existing legislation enables local authorities to consider compulsorily acquiring such houses if they think fit. It is, therefore, a matter for the local authorities concerned to take some action.