Sustainable Communities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:31 pm on 5th February 2003.

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Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Local Government and the Regions, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 12:31 pm, 5th February 2003

We conducted a survey on those matters to see whether any damage had been caused by right to buy, and we found that many abuses of the system had been taking place in my hon. Friend's constituency. For three years, it became profitable for tenants to exercise the right to buy and, following neighbourhood regeneration, to sell the house on for the full market price. That abuse of the system, where there is a desperate need for housing, means that those houses do not go to people who live in them as owners, but that they are rented out at a very high rent that people cannot afford. That has reduced the availability of housing stock. We are therefore taking a number of actions, one of which concerns right to buy and the reduction of discounts so that it is not so profitable for a tenant to do a deal with a buyer who persuades them to do so, then come back to ask for public housing having received the money. That is an abuse of the system that was never intended to take place, and I hope that the Opposition would agree that we cannot condone it.

As for the time scale to which affordable homes will be provided, the amount of money that is available is £5 billion, with £1 billion for key workers, and we are considering its regional distribution. The number of affordable homes will depend on how we calculate those figures. The cost of replacing a house in the north is very different from that of replacing a house in London, and we must take those factors into account.