Reinforcing the government’s commitment to Right To Buy, Housing Minister Esther McVey told the Commons MHCLG would “look closely” at councils accused of frustrating home ownership initiatives.
The accusation was made by fellow Tory Bob Blackman during a debate on council housing.
Blackman said many councils that have built council housing deliberately set up housing companies to frustrate the right to buy and urged an outlawing of the practice.
“We will look closely at anybody who is frustrating people’s dream and desire to own their own home,” said McVey.
“We will continue with the Right To Buy, we will look at how those receipts are being used, so that we can maximise the new homes being built,” she said.
McVey maintained that, under Labour, 170 right-to-buy receipts bought one new home.
“Now, we are getting more homes built through the right to buy, and having sold 119,000 homes, we have built 140,000 more,” she said.
Earlier in the debate, McVey was forced into a defence of the government’s record on council homes – when challenged over “fantasy figures” covering right to Buy losses.
Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle said the 6,287 homes for social rent built last year were offset by 10,000 lost to Right To Buy and other conversions.
“That was a loss of 4,000 social rented homes in our country,” he said.
“Is it not time, first, that the government used net figures rather than these fantasy ‘built’ figures; and, secondly, that we really reviewed Right To Buy, allowing councils good conditions and restrictions where there are areas of stress and ensuring that the discount carries on rather than just being pocketed by the individual?”
McVey maintained councils built 26,185 affordable homes between 2010-11 and 2018-19 – up from just 2,994 over the previous 13 years under a Labour Administration – referencing the reintroduction of social rents, removal of HRA borrowing caps for councils and £2bn for housing authorities to help with the ability to increase purchases and build by councils.
This was countered by Labour’s Alex Cunningham who said if the Tories had simply continued building social rented homes at the level left by Labour, there would now be 200,000 more social rented homes for those who need them.
Tory Scott Mann spoke of the 20,000 plus people on the council housing waiting list in Cornwall, referencing the “ridiculous situation” where private pension providers can invest in business development but not in residential development.
He urged “representations to the Treasury” to allow pension providers to invest in social housing.
McVey said options for such investment in the housing structure were on the MHCLG agenda.
The issue of adequate investment was raised by the SNP’s David Linden who said that, in the last five years, the SNP government in Scotland had built 80% more affordable housing per head of population than England and twice as much as Wales.
Linden questioned when the Westminster government would “catch on” to the fact that the housing crisis will not be solved unless they invest adequately in social rented housing.
McVey said this was “obviously a devolved matter” and stood by the near 460,000 affordable homes she claimed the government had delivered.
“We are looking to extend all types of home, we are tenure-blind and we are delivering more homes,” she said.
Linden said there was no point when the Conservative party manifesto commits to promoting and extending the right to buy – which he described as one of Margaret Thatcher’s biggest policy disasters.
He said: “In Scotland, we ended the Right To Buy, protecting existing social rented homes and preventing the sale of 15,500 homes over a decade.
“Why can the minister not see and understand that it is totally senseless to build new social housing, only to flog it off afterwards?
McVey defended Right To Buy as having helped two million people get on the housing ladder, with some 600,000 households having been helped to purchase a home through either Right To Buy or Help To Buy since 2010.
“And we are ensuring that the money from the Right To Buy is helping more homes to be built,” she said.
“In fact, we have sold 119,000 homes, which has helped to build 140,000 more homes.”
Tory Eddie Hughes told the house the future was in his Walsall constituency, where Walsall Housing Group had an “innovative partnership” with Lovell to build 250 mixed-tenure houses on the brownfield site of a former engineering works.
“The minister is completely right that the housing supply jigsaw has many pieces, so we will continue to pump billions of pounds into housing associations,” he said.