Housing Association Grants

Part of Clause 45 – in the House of Commons at 8:15 pm on 14th June 1988.

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Photo of Mrs Alice Mahon Mrs Alice Mahon , Halifax 8:15 pm, 14th June 1988

I make no apology for bombarding the Minister with arguments that he has already heard from hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley). The Minister is part of a Government whose actions have led to one of the worst housing crises since the war, and he should be made to listen to the problems that his Government have created. I see the Secretary of State for the Environment hiding away in the corner of the Government Front Bench, but I am glad that he has come to listen.

The Minister has stated on many occasions that it is not his intention to force housing associations up market. He says that rents will be affordable, and many hon. Members have asked him what he considers to be "affordable", but we still do not know. I shall listen with interest for any indication of what "affordable" really means. The Minister has also said that housing associations will be able to accommodate the kind of people for whom they now provide accommodation, but there are already problems. I refer to a problem affecting the Anchor housing association in my own area. It is a well-known and well-respected housing association, with a good reputation. It has near my constituency office in Halifax a lovely sheltered development, which is a housing with care scheme.

Housing associations are very good at caring for special groups of people—not least the elderly. The development to which I have referred cares for the very frail elderly, for whom it provides an ideal way of living. Care is there, but the independence of the individual remains, which is something that we all want to see. It offers 48 units, but it is not an institutionalised development and is the very best example of housing association accommodation.

That development is in trouble. Some weeks ago its management invited me to look around and meet the tenants there. They are very comfortable, happy and well cared for. They have a community room and everything that we would wish for those who are in their twilight years and finding it difficult to sustain an independent life alone. The scheme is running at a deficit. Its total annual expenditure is £355,189, but its income from tenants totals £324,630, leaving an annual deficit of more than £30,000. The deficit is currently running at £150 per week. That is happening because housing benefit no longer covers its costs.

That is just one example of the problems facing us. What on earth will happen to similar schemes in the future? The Minister cannot just sit there with his eyes closed, and with the Secretary of State nodding off in the corner of the Front Bench.