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A massive switch of housing association spending away from new building is hidden within government cuts in the Housing Corporation's budget.So claims the National Federation of Housing Associations, which warned this week that thousands of construction jobs could go as a result.It said corporation figures show new building by housing associations will fall from 45,000 homes this year to just 32,000 by 1996/97.This is because money has been moved from building into schemes which help tenants to buy other homes, and so vacate housing association property.The Housing Corporation, which funds housing associations, had its budget for 1994/95 cut from £1.5 billion to £1.2 billion in last November's budget.And 19 per cent of this will go to refurbishment, which housing minister Sir George Young is keen to boost after criticism from MPs that spending had fallen too far.Jim Coulter, NFHA director, said: 'Over three years there is a subtle shift from building into tenant incentive schemes.'It is very worrying. When we tackled Sir George on this he said this was done to keep up the number of lettings to new tenants.'Homelessness and overcrowding will increase and the number of new social homes will be nothing like the forecast need of 100,000 a year.'The House Builders Federation fears a further squeeze by associations on both builders costs and tenants' rents.Meanwhile, Sir George announced just before Christmas how much each council will get from the housing investment programme, which has been cut from £1.9 billion this financial year to £1.5 billion in 1994/95.This is used for major refurbishment and repair schemes and extra building grants to housing associations. CONSTRUCTION NEWS