Mon, May 15, 2017 - Page 14 News List

UK’s May vows new social housing ‘right-to-buy’ plan

STIMULUS MOVE:There are 300,000 fewer homes to rent for social housing tenants now than 20 years ago and 1.2 million families on local authority waiting lists


British Prime Minister Theresa May pledged a new “right-to-buy” program for social housing in an effort to boost home-building by local authorities and help alleviate a growing shortage of low-cost housing.

Councils and housing associations are to be offered government funding to build homes along with permitting help from the British Homes and Communities Agency, the government said in a statement on Saturday.

The program is to require a proportion of the homes to be sold after a set period of 10 to 15 years. Existing tenants at that point would have the first right to buy the properties, which would otherwise be sold to private or institutional investors.

“Too many ordinary working families are stuck on council waiting lists, facing unaffordable rents and struggling to save for that first deposit,” May said in the statement. “That’s why we will fix the broken housing market and support local authorities and housing associations to build a new generation of council homes right across the country.”

Britain’s housing shortage has pushed up rents and house prices across the country. By focusing on the need for social housing and proposing a plan likely to benefit areas with shortages such as Birmingham and Manchester, May is continuing the Conservative Party’s push to win over traditional opposition in Labour Party heartlands.

Local elections earlier this month suggested May would significantly increase her majority in the June 8 election, as surveys of likely voters have also shown.

The government is also to reform compulsory purchase rules to allow councils to assemble parcels of land to build on, including derelict buildings or unused pocket sites.

The Conservatives said “thousands” of new homes might be built, without specifying how much the plan would cost.

The program is to take the form of direct funding as well as extra borrowing between the councils taking up the plan and government.

There are 300,000 fewer homes to rent for social housing tenants in Britain now than 20 years ago and 1.2 million families on local authority waiting lists, according to the Conservatives.

Awareness that the homes would be sold after the set waiting period would ensure developers keep the private value of the housing in mind, making for better quality construction and returning the funding for social housing, the party said.

The Labour Party attacked May’s pledge as failing to present a credible plan to solve Britain’s housing problems, which include a shortage of supply and soaring rents.

“There’s no commitment on the number of new affordable homes or on new funding,” Labour Party spokesman for housing John Healey said in a statement. “After seven years of failure, the Conservatives have no plan to fix the housing crisis.”

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