UK Politics

Queen's Speech: Right to buy will create more homes, says minister

Housing Association properties Image copyright Getty Images

Every housing association home sold under the right to buy scheme will be replaced with a new property, minister Greg Clark has promised.

Some 1.3m housing association tenants in England are to get the right-to-buy their properties (the right to buy is being phased out in Scotland).

Mr Clark said the bill, in Wednesday's Queen's Speech, would allow people to fulfil their home-owning aspirations.

But critics say it will make the housing crisis worse.

Council tenants have had the right to buy the homes they live in at a discount since the early 1980s.

'Stock expanded'

The scheme was given a boost in 2012, with bigger discounts and the then housing minister Grant Shapps promising that for "the first time, every extra home sold will be replaced on a one-for-one basis".

But figures show that for 26,185 council homes sold through right-to-buy since 2012, only 2,712 replacements have started to be built, a rate of about one-to-10.

Mr Clark, who has replaced Eric Pickles as the Communities and Local Government Secretary, said the last government's one-to-one pledge only applied to "additional" housing sold after the new discount was introduced and that the promised new homes would eventually be built.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Greg Clark is the new Communities and Local Government Secretary

"The object of that policy was not to replace the whole of the stock. This new policy is to replace it," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"The other thing to point out in terms of the last policy is housing associations and councils had three years to replace the stock that was sold and so there is a lag and some of those properties are now being built.

"The policy we're announcing in the Queen's Speech is very clear - every property that is sold will be replaced, one-for-one, so the housing stock is being expanded and people can achieve this aspiration that most of us want, to own our home."

He added: "Just because you've signed a social tenancy doesn't mean you should be signing away your aspiration to own a home."

'Privileged few'

Labour said it supported "people's aspiration to buy their own home" but the Conservatives' numbers "don't add up".

Shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds said: "Ministers have not set out how this policy will be paid for, and housing experts have said that the plan is unworkable, unfunded and will lead to fewer affordable homes.

"Greg Clark said today that every home will be replaced but it was clear he didn't even know his own policy when he said there was no requirement to replace homes under the existing policy.

"The government made the same commitment in the last Parliament - and failed miserably with only one home started to be built for every 10 homes sold. Nobody will believe their promises now."

Henry Gregg, of the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, warned the government it could not "take assets away from charities and independent organisations that are trying to solve the housing crisis".

He told the BBC News Channel attempting to replace properties that had been sold off - even if the one-to-one target was met - would not address the housing shortage and would be like "filling a bath with the plug taken out".

"There's 11 million private renters out there and there's also three million adult children living with their parents.

"Giving the right to buy to housing associations is not going to help those people and actually if there's £4.5bn available which the government says there is, we shouldn't be spending that on giving large discounts of £100,00 to a privileged few, we should be actually be building more homes for all of the private rented sector and people who are living at home with their parents for example."

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