Housing and Homelessness

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 10th February 1987.

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Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment 4:15 pm, 10th February 1987

I share my hon. Friend's disappointment at the lack of interest in what is by any test a national crisis in housing.

There are numerous examples of statutory overcrowding. In some cases, whole families live in one room in temporary accommodation. Also, wholly inadequate amenity provision and substandard fire precautions abound. There is no overall standard for bed and breakfast accommodation, although some London Labour boroughs are working towards a base minimum. The Institute of Housing says that bed and breakfast costs are £30 million a year and are rising. There is little specific assistance to councils through rate support grant; therefore, they must effectively meet the bill themselves.

Ministers argue repeatedly that the homelessness crisis can be solved by bringing empty council homes into use. The facts are that 2·3 per cent. of council stock is vacant, and the total is falling; 4·2 per cent. of the owner-occupied and private rented sector stock is vacant, over 500,000 homes; the biggest culprit of all, with the highest percentage of vacant stock as a landlord is—guess who — Her Majesty's Government, with 6·9 per cent. of Government property vacant, and that percentage is rising.