Inner Cities

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:20 pm on 11th December 1985.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr George Park Mr George Park , Coventry North East 6:20 pm, 11th December 1985

Many different reports on housing have been mentioned during the debate, but I would not have thought that any Member who represents an inner urban area, or who has one within his or her constituency, would need a report from any quarter to make him aware that there is a housing crisis. If Members in that position visit their constituents' houses, listen to the cases that are brought to them al: their surgeries, and appreciate that many members of the building trades are out of work, they will know, without the provision of any reports, that there is a housing crisis.

In Coventry, in the aftermath of the bombing, the most immediate and pressing task was to get roofs over heads. Traditional building could not provide the roofs as quickly as they were needed, so Coventry council turned to Wimpeys, which constructed thousands of no-fine dwellings. Central heating needs to be installed in these dwellings along with the provision of improved insulation and new wiring. That need is desperate. The windows need to be replaced in high-rise flats and there is a need also for new lifts.

It has been estimated that to make 7,000 dwellings habitable in the categories to which I have referred, the cost would be £36 million, plus a further £12 million for single-storey buildings to replace floors, to make general improvements and to carry out conversions.

In responding to Government policy, the council was in negotiations with the original contractor to get it to take on the refurbishment of part of one of the estates in my constituency. It negotiated with Wimpeys for two years to try to get the company to take on the work. Unfortunately, Wimpeys has pulled out of the negotiations. It has left the council to try to find another contractor to do what the Government are urging local authorities to undertake. There has been a delay of two or probably three years and the tenants see their current misery extending well into the future. The result is a rising tide of resentment. So much for private involvement.

In addition to the post-war dwellings, there are 2,700 pre-war houses. The cost of modernising them is estimated to be £33 million. There are 17,000 houses in the private sector which need modernising at a cost of £70 million. I appreciate that even if the Government made resources available on that scale, the building industry could not respond immediately. However, with a need to spend £151 million on housing, Coventry has an allocation under the housing investment programme of £7·7 million. That has been supplemented by £12 million from capital receipts from the sale of houses and land, but that can be only a short-term expedient. At the current rate, it will take 11 years to cater for the pre-war houses alone, never mind the no-fine housing. In the private sector, it will take 23 years to deal with the existing problems. It must be recognised that the deterioration continues and becomes worse week by week.

In Coventry, there has been no new building for the past two years, during which there has been a waiting list of over 7,000. All new build has been stopped, even for those in special categories such as the elderly and the disabled. All the resources are concentrated on modernising and improving. The help from housing associations is minimal due to the reduction in housing that they have been able to provide.

The Government cannot possibly believe that they are giving a fair deal to those who live in urban areas. In my constituency, the areas which have the no-fine constructions are doubly disadvantaged because they are the areas in which the rate of unemployment is roughly double what it is in other parts of the constituency. In those areas it is 34 per cent. as opposed to 15 per cent. elsewhere.