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Housing minister claims right-to-buy extension will mean more new homes

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Extending right-to-buy to housing associations will create more than one new council home for every home sold to fund the scheme, according to housing minister Brandon Lewis

Speaking before the communities and local government select committee on Monday (9 November), Lewis said that some areas of the country would be able to provide more than one new home.

The Housing and Planning Bill currently being considered by Parliament will force councils to sell off their high-value properties to fund discounts for housing association tenants and provide replacement council homes.

Lewis said: ‘For every home sold there will be a new one built. I have to say that I have spoken to housing associations informally, who have made the point with some of the income in some parts of the country they will be building more than one home for every home sold.’

Lewis also indicated that he supported a proposed amendment to the Housing Bill supported by London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith, which would impose a duty for councils to provide at least two new homes for every disposal.

Lewis said: ‘That ambition is laudable, and we are looking at the moment and will look at that through the course of the bill.’

The minister also claimed that since the coalition government increased discounts for right-to-buy for council tenants in 2012, ‘we are slightly above one extra for every home sold and in London that is two for one’.

Lewis also confirmed that the right-to-buy extension would be phased in gradually to ensure that it could be funded properly, and to iron out administrative issues.

Elsewhere in his evidence, Lewis criticised councils who had made severe cuts to the size of their planning departments.

He said: ‘I think local authorities who are under-resourcing their planning department are being very short sighted and doing a huge disservice to their community and themselves.’

But he added that there was an opportunity for councils to spend less time and effort on putting together their local development plans.

He said: ‘There is an issue with some local authorities when we look at the size of some of the plans coming through around almost creating work for themselves.

‘I am sure there are no council officers who would set about doing it this way, but I am determined to make it easier for communities and councillors and officers out there to be very clear that you can do this very concisely and a lot quicker than some areas have done it at the moment.’

Committee chairman Clive Betts challenged Lewis to clarify whether the prime minister’s pledge to build a million homes during this parliament referred to starts or completions.

Refusing to be drawn, Lewis said: ‘What the prime minster said is we want to see a million homes in this new parliament across the different tenures and housing types, and to facilitate that is quite important. But I am not going to get caught up in targets today, I am afraid, as tempting as it is.’

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Readers' comments (2)

  • A member of a government charging down the road to 'severe cuts' - come hell or high water - criticises local authorities for making severe cuts.
    It encourages the old question: 'Would you buy a second hand car from this man?'

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  • The inevitable consequence of this policy is the economic ‘cleansing’ of the high value, central parts of London.
    You can only build one or more houses from the sale of one, if you sell a high value house and build another in a low value area.
    High value land will pass from public to private ownership, never to return. High value areas will be occupied only by the rich, with the poor cast out to low value areas further afield.
    The character of central London, which has rich and poor living cheek by jowl, will, over time, be fundamentally shifted and we’ll live in a less diverse, less vibrant city.

    And we will all be the poorer for it.

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