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Ms Beverley Hughes: The Government believe that informal recreation spaces, such as allotments and community gardens, are important for maintaining the quality of people's lives and contribute to healthy and sustainable neighbourhoods. We consider it important that
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people should have access to such spaces and lands close to where they live, and attach high importance to retaining such spaces particularly in urban areas.
Local Authorities, other than inner London Boroughs, are under a duty to provide and let allotments where they are of the opinion that there is a demand for them. Inner London Boroughs have a discretionary power to provide allotments. Section 8 of the Allotments Act 1925 requires local authorities to obtain the Secretary of State's consent for the sale or appropriation of statutory allotments. Consent can be granted only where adequate alternative provision is made for any affected plot holders, and the number of people on any waiting list is taken into account when making this decision.
Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what pilot schemes for introducing choice into letting of social housing he is evaluating in addition to the Harborough Home Search Scheme identified in the Housing Green Paper; 
(3) how he intends to evaluate the pilot schemes for introducing choice into letting of social housing; and if he will make the evaluations public. 
Mr. Mullin: We will shortly be inviting expressions of interest from local authorities. Bids will be invited from authorities who wish to develop schemes that achieve our aims on a choice based lettings system, including schemes that make innovative use of information technology to help tenants to choose their homes. In inviting expressions of interest we will make it clear to authorities the level of monitoring and evaluation they will be expected to undertake. Any pilot scheme will need to be evaluated fully, including the impact on homeless households.
Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to ensure that (a) victims of violence and harassment and (b) people with mental health problems are given priority in the letting of social housing in areas of high housing demand under the proposals set out in the Housing Green Paper to use waiting time as the criterion to determine priority for households in the same needs band. 
Mr. Mullin: The Housing Green Paper, "Quality and Choice; A decent home for all", sets out the Government's proposals for increasing choice in social lettings, and gives banding of applicants in similar housing need as an example of how authorities can move away from points based systems. It will remain the responsibility of each local authority to develop housing policies which are pertinent to their local housing markets, whether in high or low demand areas, taking into account the need to ensure equality of access for their most vulnerable
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residents. The Housing Green Paper also proposes making the victims of harassment a separate priority need category under homelessness legislation.
Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to ensure that the proposals set out in the Housing Green Paper to advertise vacancies in social housing do not disadvantage householders (a) with mental health problems, (b) without English as a first language and (c) who are hospitalised; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mullin: I refer to my earlier answer, Official Report, column 937W, given today. Advertising is an option within developing effective choice based systems. We will shortly be inviting expressions of interest from local authorities in bidding to develop schemes which achieve our aims of choice. These pilots will look at how extra support can be given to those who may need it, such as those whose first language is not English, those with mental health problems, and those who are hospitalised.
Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what the average density of social housing, in units per hectare, was in areas covered by regeneration schemes (a) prior to regeneration, (b) after regeneration, in England in (i) 1997-98, (ii) 1998-99 and (iii) 1999-2000. 
Mr. Mullin: We are not able to provide this information. No details are collected centrally about the average density of social housing and regeneration partnerships are not required to collect such information.
Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will (a) list the regeneration schemes in England which have resulted in a net reduction in available units of affordable rented housing and (b) estimate the total net loss of available units for each of the last five years. 
Mr. Mullin: We are not able to provide this information. Regeneration partnerships are not required to collect details about the number of units of affordable housing affected by regeneration schemes. We therefore do not have the details from which such information would be collated.
Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to introduce a 10-year performance target for his Department to meet housing need; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mullin: There are no plans to introduce a performance target on meeting housing need--which I understand to mean here the need for affordable housing. While the Government have from time to time commissioned studies of the extent and nature of housing need to inform their views on the need for affordable housing in England, they believe that neither national or regional estimates can adequately reflect the diversity of needs and priorities which exist at the local level. For these reasons the Government believe that local authorities are best placed to carry out robust assessment of housing need in their areas.
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through (a) the HOMES scheme and (b) other mobility schemes, by local authority area for each of the last three years. 
Housing Investment Programme (Operational information Section 1)
Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, pursuant to the answer of 18 July 2000, Official Report, column 131W, if he will list the occasions where registered social landlords have failed to comply with statutory guidance to make at least 50 per cent. of lettings available to local authority nominees from the housing register. 
Mr. Mullin: The Housing Corporation monitors the proportion of new lettings going to local authority nominations and may make inquiries of those RSLs with nomination levels below 50 per cent. However, nomination levels below 50 per cent. do not necessarily indicate a failure to make lettings available to local authority nominees.
It is important to bear in mind factors which may influence the level of local authority nominations, for instance the effect of depressed nomination levels in areas where there is low demand and where the overall number of lettings is small.
I have placed in the Library a list of registered social landlords whose lettings to local authority nominees fell below 50 per cent. in 1998-99, the most recent year for which data are available. The list is ranked in order of the number of units and/or bedspaces owned or managed and excludes those registered social landlords with fewer than 250 units of accommodation or 250 bed spaces.
Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will place the responses to the consultation Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation--England in the Library. 
Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many local authorities have (a) contracted out their homelessness services and (b) subsequently brought these services back in-house in the last five years. 
Mr. Mullin: This information is not available in a form which can be broken down in this way. Local authorities provide the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions with limited information about the extent to which services are provided centrally or externally, but these do not distinguish in any detail between functions
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under Part VI of the Housing Act 1996, relating to the allocation of social housing, and those relating to homelessness under Part VII of the Act.
Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what proportion of the capital expenditure in the Housing Corporation's Annual Development Programme from 2001-02 to 2003-04 will be for low-cost home ownership schemes. 
Mr. Mullin: Following our recent Spending Review, we are providing nearly £1 billion extra for investment in affordable housing through the Approved Development Programme over the four years 2000-01 to 2003-04. By 2003-04, the programme will be £1.2 billion a year, nearly double the planned level of investment following the 1998 Comprehensive Spending Review.
The proportion of the Housing Corporation's Approved Development Programme which will be directed towards low cost home ownership from 2001-02 to 2003-04 will depend on local and regional assessments of housing need. This reflects the more strategic approach being adopted by the Housing Corporation to ensure that resources are targeted effectively and meet local priorities.
In addition to the Approved Development Programme funding, our spending plans for the same period include an additional £250 million in further support of low cost home ownership. The additional resources will fund the new Starter Homes Initiative, which was proposed in the Housing Green Paper, to help key workers to achieve home ownership in high price, high demand areas.
Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to require registered social landlords to have regard to the provisions of the Code of Guidance on Parts VI and VII of the Housing Act 1996 where stock transfer has taken place. 
Mr. Mullin: The Code of Guidance on Parts VI and VII of the Housing Act 1996 applies only to local authorities. Following the transfer of their housing stock, local authorities must continue to keep a register of applicants seeking social housing in their area and continue to have obligations towards homeless households under Part VI and Part VII of the Housing Act 1996. To ensure that they have access to accommodation to enable them to discharge their housing functions, they generally negotiate nomination rights of between 50 per cent. and 75 per cent. of the transferred stock with the transfer landlord. RSLs are regulated by the Housing Corporation which has the power, under s.36 of the Housing Act 1996, to issue guidance with respect to the management of housing, including the allocation of housing.
Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has for monitoring and regulating the performance of agencies who are contracted by local authorities to carry out their duties under Parts VI & VII of the Housing Act 1996. 
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Mr. Mullin: Under Best Value local authorities are required to review all their services, including housing, over a five year cycle. The Housing Inspectorate will inspect all housing authorities over the same period and as part of that aims to inspect particular housing services, such as homelessness and the allocation of tenancies, when those services have been subject to a completed Best Value Review.
The Housing Inspectorate will, where services have been legitimately contracted out to agencies, inspect the contractual performance of the Local authority as the client, and the other party as their agents/contractors, and make the results publicly available.
Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what estimate he has made of the number of households accommodated through the HOMESWAP scheme in each of the last three years; and what assessment he has made of the reasons for which households have used the scheme. 
Mr. Mullin: The HOMESWAP Scheme is managed by an independent organisation called HOMES. The total number of exchanges is collected from local authority Housing Investment Programme returns. It is estimated that a quarter to a third of those occur through HOMESWAP. This proportion is based on what was happening when HIP stopped collecting separate statistics for HOMESWAP as opposed to all exchanges (in 1994-95) and is supported by the limited information that HOMES are able to collect from landlords.
|Estimate HOMESWAP based on 1/4||7,475||8,800||10,300|
|Estimate HOMESWAP based on 1/3||9,966||11,733||13,733|
HOMES does not record the reason for exchanging when people register on HOMESWAP, although this information is gathered from time to time by research organisations. The most recent published research, which gives reasons for using the scheme is "An Evaluation of HOMES" (MORI for DoE 1995). Research into mutual exchanges is currently being undertaken by University of Cambridge on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, to be published later this year, which will include an analysis of reasons for exchanging.
Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the housing stock transfers where new social housing has been built using the resources released by the transfer in each of the last three years. 
Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if the remit of the new Community Housing Taskforce will include the impact of stock transfer on homelessness and housing need; and if these concerns will be reflected in its membership. 
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Mr. Mullin: The remit and structure of the Community Housing Taskforce is currently being considered by the Department. Local housing authorities retain their obligations towards homeless households under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 and are expected to assess housing need as part of their housing strategy after the transfer of their stock. It is proposed that the Taskforce will work together with the Government Offices for the Regions to ensure that local housing authorities take account of their statutory obligations when developing their housing transfer proposals.
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