Tories vow to back councils in housebuilding push

15 May 17

The Conservatives have promised to help local authorities build thousands of council homes with a £1.4bn cash injection from existing funds.

The plans are part of the Tory proposals to shake up the right-to-buy system, and would see Whitehall give councils and housing associations cash to help kick-start a new wave of building.

Reforms to the compulsory purchase system would also allow local authorities to buy derelict or unused land for housing at cheaper prices than they are currently able.

In return, some of the homes would have to have a fixed-term social rent – typically 10 or 15 years – after which they would be sold, with the tenant being given the first option to buy.

Yesterday, defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon admitted there was no new money for the pledge. “The money is coming from the £1.4bn we earmarked for capital expenditure from the Autumn Statement last year,” he told the BBC.

"It's not new money but the amount for each council will depend on the deals we strike with places like Manchester and Birmingham to get more social housing built in these areas of a high-enough quality that tenants eventually will be able to buy.”

Fallon was unable to give precise figures of how many homes would be built through this scheme but the government expects “thousands” to be constructed each year.

John Healey, Labour’s shadow housing minister, said the Conservatives’ plans were just “political spin, with no substance”.

Labour claim the government has presided over seven years of “failure” on housing policy with the level of new affordable housing being built at a 24-year low.

According to Labour, the number of government-funded social rented homes being fell to fewer than 1,000 last year, down from almost 40,000 under Labour in 2009-10.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has pledged that Labour would build one million homes over the next parliament, half of which would be council homes.

Over the weekend, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron issued an ultimatum to developers, saying “unless you build the homes that Britain needs, we will”.

He said his party would “put a progressive housing package at the heart of our new manifesto.

“It will include, building 300,000 homes a year by the end of the next parliament and giving local councils the power the charge absentee landlords up to 200% council tax on empty homes.”

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