Tenants could be part-owners

9 Aug 01
Tenants living in social housing could be invited to become part home-owners under plans being drawn up by the government.

10 August 2001

As promised in Labour's election manifesto, 4 million tenants who rent homes from local authorities or housing associations may be able to gain equity shares in the properties, possibly through a portion of their rent being placed in a fund and held under their name.

Setting out his vision for modernising housing during Labour's second term, Transport, Local Government and the Regions Secretary Stephen Byers admitted the plans were still at an early stage but said it was important to extend the benefits of a property-owning democracy.

'Helping a tenant gain a direct stake in their home has the potential to radically change the outlook of the occupiers of social housing,' he said in a speech to the Social Market Foundation in London on August 2.

'They would cease to be tenants with little control over their housing, and instead become part-owners with a direct interest in working with their landlord to maintain their homes and their communities.'

People in the UK hold an average of £750 of cash savings, with homeowners having, on average, an additional £50,000 tied up in property. As well as not owning any share of their house, nearly 60% of social tenants have no cash savings, he said.

Pointing to the £2.5bn the government will spend in 2003 and 2004 on tackling the £19bn repairs backlog in council housing, Byers stressed that he was committed to ensuring all social housing met set standards by the end of the decade.

Local authorities must take a 'business-like approach' to managing their assets through options such as the Private Finance Initiative and arm's-length companies, while registered social landlords should also rise to the challenge of improving housing.

'Ensuring all social housing is decent is a top priority,' Byers told the foundation, issuing an implied threat to those who do not reach the required standards. 'Whilst I look forward to celebrating the success of housing providers who raise standards, I am more than ready to turn the spotlight on any who do not.'

Byers also put pressure on private landlords to improve the quality of rented housing, warning those who failed to maintain properties that they could lose tenants' housing benefit.


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