Election 2015

Election 2015: Greens pledge to end 'Right to Buy'

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Media captionNatalie Bennett: 'Homes should be safe places to live'

Council house tenants will not be allowed to buy their own homes, under plans unveiled by the Green Party.

Leader Natalie Bennett said her party would build 500,000 social homes on brown field sites, particularly in the north and the Midlands.

The party would also bring 700,000 empty homes back into use.

Labour wants to make first-time buyers exempt from stamp duty on homes up to £300,000. The Conservatives say Labour's plans are unfunded.

The Lib Dems say they would increase house building to 300,000 a year and help young people living with their parents to raise cash for a housing deposit.

Speaking ahead of a formal announcement at Cressingham Gardens housing estate in Lambeth, south London - which Ms Bennett did not attend because of losing her voice - she told BBC Breakfast she wanted people who rent privately to be given a five-year tenure, with rent rises not exceeding the rate of inflation.

She is also calling for a "Living Rent Commission" to investigate ways to bring rent levels down.

"We need to move away from thinking of homes primarily as financial assets and go back to thinking of them as safe places to live," she said.

"We have seen a huge rise in many parts of the country where people are really struggling to survive to pay the rent.

"People on average incomes in London are paying 50% of their income in rent."

Ms Bennett said many were struggling to get on the housing ladder at all.

According to her party, the proportion of people living in council houses dropped from 31% in 1981 to 18% in 2011, while the number of people renting privately went up by a third to 18%.

The Greens also claim 2,714 people slept rough on any given night last year - 55% more than 2010.

HS2

"We've lost 1.5 million homes to 'Right to Buy' - we want to end 'Right to Buy'," said Ms Bennett, arguing that affordable homes were needed across the country, including more social homes.

"That's why we're calling for 500,000 of these over the next Parliament...

"When you travel around the country you see from the train how many brownfield sites there are, particularly in the north and the Midlands, and there are also 700,000 empty homes to bring back into use.

"So much development has been focused on London and the south east. That's why we're opposed to building HS2, which would focus even more development, people and money on London.

"We need to build strong regional economies all around the country."

Horse racing

Ms Bennett was speaking out as Labour leader Ed Miliband unveiled plans on housing including giving local residents "first call" on up to half of new homes in their area for a time.

But the Conservatives argued that Labour's "panicky" housing announcements would cost more than twice as much as it was claiming.

Ms Bennett also defended Green plans to renationalise the railways as part of her party's plan to "rebalance our economy".

She said austerity had "made the poor, disadvantaged and the young pay for the greed and the fraud of the banks".

She also called for the electoral system and House of Lords to be restructured, arguing that the current first-past-the-post voting system is likely to produce MPs at this election "with not much more than 25% of the vote".

She said the Greens would like to see proportional representation used at elections, adding that having an unelected upper house is "indefensible".

"Rather than us offering the recipe, let's give it to the people - have a people's constitutional convention," she said.

Ms Bennett also cleared up confusion about her position on horse racing - she had been reported as saying she would like to see an end to the Grand National.

"We're calling for a review of the animal protection issues and also in terms of safety issues for jockeys - not a ban, despite some reports to the contrary," she added.

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