§ Mr. Jim Cunningham
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what regulations are in place on minimum standards for the size and quality of housing. 
§ Ms Keeble
There are a number of regulations in place in relation to the size and quality of housing.
Under the housing fitness standard, set out in section 604 in the Housing Act 1985, as amended by the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, a dwelling is unfit if, in the opinion of the local authority, it fails to meet one of nine specified requirements and, by reason of that failure, is not reasonably suitable for occupation. The requirements constitute the minimum deemed necessary for a dwelling house to be fit for human habitation. They include that a dwelling house should be free from serious disrepair, that it should be structurally safe, and that it should be free from dampness prejudicial to the health of the occupants.
When parliamentary time allows, the Government intend to replace the housing fitness standard with a new risk-based assessment procedure—the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. This will improve upon the existing standard by covering all the important health and safety risks in the home.
Local authorities have a range of powers to improve standards in houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)—primarily through section 352 of the Housing Act 1985, as amended. This power enables a local authority to serve a notice requiring a landlord to carry out works to ensure the physical condition of the property is adequate for the number of occupants. The Government are also committed to introducing a mandatory licensing scheme for HMOs which will operate closely alongside the proposed Housing Health and Safety Rating System.1174W
In addition, the Government have set a target to bring all social homes up to set standards of decency by 2010, and to reduce the number of social tenants living in non-decent homes by one-third by April 2004, with most of this reduction taking place in deprived areas.
A decent home must:
- be above the current statutory minimum standard for housing;
- be in a reasonable state of repair;
- have reasonably modern facilities and services; and
- provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort.
The decent home standard is not set down in statute.
The Government have also developed with the Housing Corporation the Housing Quality Indicator (HQI) system, which is a measurement and assessment tool designed to allow housing schemes to be evaluated on the basis of quality rather than simply of cost. The HQI assesses the quality of a housing project using three main categories: location, design and performance. These three categories produce 10 "Quality Indicators", which include an assessment of unit size. An HQI assessment generates separate scores for each indicator, producing a profile of the scheme and an overall HQI score. From April 1 2001 the Housing Corporation Scheme Development Standards require HQIs to be used on all new developments utilising social housing grant. In addition, as part of the process of completing the HQI assessment, potential developers and architects should also be able to make design decisions which result in higher quality housing with minimal cost implications.
Overcrowding standards are set out in Part X of the Housing Act 1985. The room standard is breached if two people of opposite sexes, who are not living together as husband and wife, must sleep in the same room. The space standard specifies the number of people who may sleep in a dwelling according to the number of rooms.
Building work, which includes the erection or extension of a house, is subject to the Building Regulations which set out the requirements to ensure the health and safety of people in and around buildings, energy efficiency, and access and facilities for disabled people. They make no requirements for size, but in respect of quality, it is stipulated that the work shall be carried out with adequate and proper materials and in a workmanlike manner.
§ Ms Keeble
The number of dwellings built by registered social landlords for the last five financial years are given in the table, together with the first nine months data of the latest year. The figures do not include those dwellings bought by registered social landlords, or dwellings provided by converting existing dwellings or other buildings such as offices.1175W
Housebuilding by registered social landlords—number of completions by Government office region Region 1996–97 1997–98 1998–99 1999–2000 2000–01 2001–02 North East 1,036 900 667 803 636 439 North West 3,590 2,661 2,284 2,884 3,226 2,221 Yorkshire and the Humber 2,709 1,540 1,586 1,195 917 670 East Midlands 1,149 1,361 1,295 1,172 898 411 West Midlands 2,179 1,855 2,152 2,184 1,713 859 East 2,903 2,436 2,480 1,718 1,678 1,192 London 4,858 4,329 3,198 2,934 3,710 2,434 South East 3,634 4,069 3,643 2,884 2,716 2,035 South West 2,477 2,246 1,615 1,589 1,788 1,111 England 24,535 21,397 18,920 17,363 17,282 11,372 1 April-December only. Figures for this period are provisional and subject to change.
§ Ms Keeble
We have set out in Planning Policy Guidance Note 3, "Housing", our expectation that planning and housing departments should work together to assess the housing needs of their communities. In the good practice guides we have published to support PPG3 we have underlined the value of close co-operation between planning and housing officers and have highlighted those areas where maximum benefit is to be gained.