NEW GOVERNMENT PLANS WOULD GIVE SOCIAL HOUSING TENANTS RIGHT TO BUY 1 PER CENT OF HOME EACH YEAR

Social housing tenants could be allowed to buy a fraction of the value of their property each year under new government plans announced today.

Introducing league tables of landlords is also among suggestions being considered by ministers as part of a “new deal” for social housing.

The proposals were included in the government’s long-awaited social housing green paper, which outlines how ministers plan to improve the quality of low cost homes in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster. 

The former housing secretary, Sajid Javid, had promised the document would be “the most substantial report of its kind for a generation”.

But Labour said the “pitiful” plan published today showed the government “has run out of ideas”.

Under the proposals, tenants who buy a property using shared ownership schemes would be allowed to purchase a minimum of 1 per cent of the value of their home each year – equating to just several hundred pounds in some parts of the country.

Current rules state that prospective owners must be able to pay 10 per cent of the value of their home upfront, stopping many tenants from getting a foot on the housing ladder.

James Brokenshire, the housing secretary, said the government’s “new deal” for social housing would “improve fairness, quality and safety for residents”.

He said: “Providing high quality and well managed social housing is a core priority for this government.

“Our green paper offers a landmark opportunity for major reform to improve fairness, quality and safety for residents living in social housing across the country.

“Regardless of whether you own your home or rent, residents deserve security, dignity and the opportunities to build a better life.”

Plans for the green paper were announced after the Grenfell Tower disaster prompted ministers to bow to pressure to invest in social housing. In the weeks after the blaze, Mr Javid admitted the Tories had “failed” on housing and promised a “fundamental rethink”.

Publishing the document, the government said it was prioritising ensuring social homes are safe and good quality, and giving tenants the power to hold landlords to account.

As part of this, the social housing regulator will be given new powers to intervene and ensure landlords are maintaining homes to a decent standard. The process of dealing with tenants’ complaints will also be sped up.

League tables could also be used to assess landlords based on how well their properties are maintained and how they treat tenants.

Separately, legislation will be introduced to protect the rights of domestic violence victims who have been given a social home for life.

Ministers said they were also prioritising tackling the stigma around social housing, and increasing the overall number of social homes being built.

They have launched a separate consultation of how councils are spending the money they receive from selling homes through the right to buy scheme, which critics say is a major cause of the diminishing number of social homes in the UK.

Less than half of the revenue generated by right to buy sales currently goes towards the cost of building new homes. Instead, almost a fifth goes to the Treasury and a quarter is used by councils to pay off debts.

Ninety per cent fewer social homes are being built now than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010, while 230,000 low cost homes are forecast to be lost between 2010 and 2020.

More than 8,000 people have already fed into the government’s green paper, and more views will be sought during the consultation period, which is set to close in November.

Publication of the document had already been delayed by several weeks, leading to it being released in the middle of parliament’s summer break.

Labour said the proposals in the paper would do nothing to increase the supply of social homes.

John Healey, the shadow housing secretary, said: “This pitiful document reveals a government that has run out of ideas on housing. Nothing in this green paper measures up to the scale of the housing crisis.

“The number of new social rented homes is at a record low but there is no new money to increase supply, and ministers are still preventing local authorities run by all parties from building the council homes their communities need.

“After eight years of failure on housing, ministers should back Labour’s long-term plan for a million new genuinely affordable homes over 10 years.”

Council leaders also said the plan did not go far enough.

Judith Blake, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesperson, said: “This green paper is a step towards delivering more social homes but it is only a small step, compared with the huge and immediate need for more genuinely affordable homes.

“There is a desperate need to reverse the decline in council housing over the past few decades.”

She added: “The government must go beyond the limited measures announced so far, scrap the housing borrowing cap and enable all councils across the country to borrow to build once more.

“This would trigger a renaissance in council house-building, which will help people to access genuinely affordable housing.”