'Out of ideas': Boris Johnson's new right to buy plan 'won't happen', Keir Starmer says
There are fears extending the right to buy to housing association tenants could further reduce the available social housing stock, as ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt reports
Boris Johnson has set out plans to extend the right to buy to housing association tenants as he seeks to repair his fortunes after a Tory revolt against his leadership. The prime minister used a major speech in Lancashire on Thursday to announce new measures to potentially help millions onto the property ladder.
He argued that the around £30 billion in housing benefit that currently goes towards rent could be better used to help people buy their homes.
The Times newspaper reports that the vision to give millions the ability to buy their social properties at discounts of up to 70% is likely to be limited to a series of pilots for now, without additional government funding.
But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the plan - a version of which was trailed in 2015 - is evidence the government is "completely out of ideas".
He said the plan for housing associations to replace the homes they sell, is a "reheated" idea that not even the Housing Secretary Michael Gove believes will work.
"They are so distracted, they are so divided they're now chasing ideas that they themselves piloted seven years ago. [They] know it won't work.
"For people who want to buy a house, affordable housing, this is not the answer. They know it's not the answer - I don' think this is actually going to happen."
ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt, who has spent the past 18 months investigating the state of social housing across the country, said the move risks further depleting the UK's already low stocks.
He said there are 120,000 children across the country in temporary accommodation, awaiting a permanent home.
"There is a debate in government on what the priority is. Is it on building social housing or is it helping social housing tenants?"
Speaking to ITV News, Housing Secretary Michael Gove insisted that the right to buy for housing association tenants cannot lead to the depletion of social housing stock, insisting for every home sold one must be built to replace it.
However, as Daniel Hewitt points out, the government is not directly in charge of selling or building social homes, so this is a "hard guarantee" to make.
The prime minister also committed to detail “reforms to help people cut costs in every area of household expenditure” over the coming weeks as he seeks to ease the impact of soaring prices. The moves will form part of a plan by the prime minister to reassert his authority after surviving Monday’s confidence vote, despite the revolt by 41% of his MPs. Despite surviving the bid to oust him, Mr Johnson’s authority has been dented by 148 Conservatives saying they have no confidence in his leadership.
ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston said that some Tory MPs believe that Boris Johnson's big housing announcement looks good as a headline - but don't believe that the technical issues will be overcome.
“We have the tools we need to get on top of rising prices,” Mr Johnson said. “The global headwinds are strong, but our engines are stronger. “And, while it’s not going to be quick or easy, you can be confident that things will get better, that we will emerge from this a strong country with a healthy economy.” He added: “Over the next few weeks, the government will be setting out reforms to help people cut costs in every area of household expenditure, from food to energy to childcare to transport and housing.” And he promised “to cut the costs that government imposes on businesses and people up and down the country” despite his prior tax hikes.
Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know
On Wednesday, Mr Johnson said the government will be “expanding home ownership for millions of people” as he vowed to continue in No 10 despite the turmoil.
Information from Downing Street ahead of Thursday's speech gave little detail on how the proposal will actually work, but the PA news agency has been told Mr Johnson will confirm his intention to give tenants of housing association properties the right to buy their homes. Proposals for renters to be able to buy their social homes at a discount are not new, and appeared in David Cameron’s 2015 Conservative manifesto. After that pledge failed to materialise, Mr Johnson committed to consider new pilots for the scheme ahead of the 2019 general election. Encouraging a wave of modular or “flatpack” homes to be built is another new measure being actively considered, but it was unclear whether the prime minister will commit to the move in his speech.