UK Politics

David Cameron unveils proposals to boost home ownership

David Cameron Image copyright PA
Image caption David Cameron wants to extend the Right to Buy scheme to housing association tenants

New measures to help people buy and build houses will feature in this week's Budget, the government has said.

David Cameron announced plans to build discounted homes for first-time buyers under 40 and use public land for homes.

The measures - including a plan announced before the election to extend the Right to Buy scheme to housing association tenants - form part of the Housing Bill.

Inheritance tax on homes worth up to £1m will also end, it was confirmed.

"Having your own place is an important stake in our economy," the prime minister and Chancellor George Osborne wrote in a joint article in the Times, ahead of Wednesday's budget.

"We don't want this to be a country where if you're rich you can buy a home, but if you're less well off you can't."

'Starter homes'

The Right to Buy scheme, which already applies to most council tenants, will be extended to 1.3 million housing association tenants, who will get a discount of up to 70% to buy their own home.

Defending the schemes against those who think it will reduce the housing stock, Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne wrote: "By helping people to own their own home, through Right to Buy, we can turn tenants into homeowners and reduce housing benefit bills.

"And by selling off the most expensive council houses when they become vacant we can replace every home we sell - whether an expensive council house or one though Right to Buy."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The government wants to build 200,000 "starter homes"

The prime minister and chancellor also said they will keep the Help to Buy scheme, which offers homebuyers either loans or mortgage guarantees, until 2020.

The government also wants to build 200,000 "starter homes", sold at below market rate for first-time buyers under 40.

They said they will urge local councils to give land with planning permission to those who want to build or commission their own homes, to double the number of custom-built houses in the UK.

A "programme of regeneration" around the country's railway stations will form part of the drive to release public sector land for 150,000 homes.

Help 'lucky few'

But Toby Lloyd, head of policy at housing and homelessness charity Shelter, told the BBC the new housing measures would be "very nice" for only a "handful of people".

"Unfortunately it is just another example of piecemeal schemes that help a lucky few but do nothing to address the fundamental problem which is a desperate shortage of genuinely affordable homes we have," he said.

Referring to both the inheritance tax plan and the housing measures, he said: "In fact both schemes can be seen to be making it worse.

"Ultimately we have too much money chasing too few homes. And both schemes are getting rid of the of the homes and increasing the amount of money chasing them."

Mr Lloyd also questioned how many tenants would actually be able to exercise the right to buy.

'Big boost'

But housing minister Brandon Lewis told the BBC housing association tenants should be given the opportunity to buy their home.

David Orr, National Housing Federation chief executive, said that housing associations selling off their homes with government-funded discounts was a "distraction".

"It's something that will not in itself create the new homes that we desperately need and it means that money which we could use to build new homes will be going somewhere else," he told the BBC.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark said he believed the new measures would make a difference.

"Almost all of us want to own a home of our own at some point and it's been difficult in recent years," he said.

"But by getting land released on brownfield sites, by having starter homes for younger people under 40, we're giving a big boost to that to give even more people the chance to own their own home."

Andy Silvester, campaigns director at the Taxpayers' Alliance, which campaigns for lower taxes, said the government, "like all politicians in Westminster", was scared of upsetting "NIMBYs" and the "build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything brigade".

He added: "They need to be a little braver when it comes to liberalising that planning system, allowing developers to build some houses.

"That's ultimately the only thing that is going to bring house prices down in the long run."

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