Green Party Principal Speaker Dr. Derek Wall today responded to Gordon Brown's Eco-towns announcement: "Even if these towns are as environmentally friendly as promised, we are still talking about building 100,000 new homes across the UK - which will have a devastating impact on our environment.

"In England alone, there are almost 700 000 empty homes. We desperately need to see better use of empty privately owned property - through empowering local authorities to use Empty Property Use Orders, in appropriate cases and with proper safeguards and rights of appeal. "In this way, the Green Party would give priority to the maintenance and improvement of existing properties before new house building is considered. This should be the first step towards creating an affordable housing market.

"It is also crucial that the government look at provision of social housing. In recent years, this area has gone into rapid decline: in 1990, 13,000 local authority dwellings were completed. In 2004 / 2005, this figure was just 100.

"The recent government commissioned Barker review recommended that 23,000 social homes a year should be built, whilst research commissioned by Shelter estimates that 48,000 new social rented homes are required each year to meet newly arising need.

"Brown needs to ensure that any new build has as a staring point housing provision for those who need it most. What proportion of eco- town homes will go to the 100,000 homeless households currently living in temporary accommodation?

"The government also needs to look at why we are facing such a housing crisis in the South-East - spiralling economic growth in this region is causing migration from other parts of the county at unsustainable levels. "Housing policy should be fully integrated with other policies to build more sustainable, self-reliant communities. The provision of housing should be coordinated with developments to provide work, leisure, education and health care, and innovative ecological housing should be the standard for all, not just a few."


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