Right to Buy

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 8th September 2014.

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Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Party Chair, Liberal Democrats 2:30 pm, 8th September 2014

What assessment his Department has made of the effect of changes to right to buy on the viability of maintaining and increasing the stock of social housing in England.

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government)

In 2013, social housing stock topped the 4 million mark for the first time since 2004. In the first year following the reinvigoration of the right-to-buy scheme, there were almost 6,000 council right-to-buy sales. In the same period, affordable rented stock increased by 20,000.

Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

In South Lakeland in my constituency, of the 7,500 council homes, only 3,000 remain, and there is a council house waiting list of 3,500 individuals.

That must be set against the backdrop of local house prices being 12 times average local wages. Does the Minister agree that, in the spirit of localism, it would be right to do as the Scottish Parliament has done and allow local authorities the right to suspend right to buy in those places where it is having the worst impact?

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government)

I do not entirely agree. I believe that people who aspire to own their own home should have the opportunity to do so if they can afford it, because it allows them to have the pride of ownership not just in their home, but in their street and their neighbourhood.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour, Huddersfield

It is sad not to have Jim Dobbin jumping up and down today, as he usually did in this House. He was a man of courage. He would have joined me in saying that we need courage in facing the lack of good social housing. I have always been in favour of the right to buy, as long as the homes are superseded by more social housing. Is it not true that some Government some time must have the courage to say, “We will not meet housing need in this country—social or private—until we build on some of our green belt”?

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government)

I agree with some of what the hon. Gentleman said, but I do not think that we need to go down the line of his final few comments. From April 2012 to June 2014, almost 3,700 homes have been started on site or acquired with the £514 million that has been generated by additional sales through the reinvigorated right to buy. The additional receipts that are raised by local authority right-to-buy sales are now used directly to fund homes for affordable rent, thanks to the changes that the Government have made.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Conservative, Harlow

Is my hon. Friend aware that under this Government an astonishing 437% more people in Harlow have bought houses under the right to buy? Is that not an example of a housing policy that helps lower earners and gives people the ladder of aspiration?

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Government have stood firm behind this clear policy to give people the chance to aspire to move on, own their own home, and play an important part in developing that home in their community for the future.

Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Labour, Slough

For the avoidance of doubt, will the Minister tell the House what is affordable in London and the south-east? What is the capital cost and what is the rent?

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government)

I will write to the hon. Lady with that information.