Johnson to announce scheme to allow lower-paid workers to use benefits to buy their homes
Lower-paid workers are to be able to use housing benefits to buy their homes and the right to buy will be extended for housing association tenants under plans being set out by Boris Johnson.
The Prime Minister is expected to confirm his intentions in a major speech on Thursday as he seeks to repair his fortunes after a wounding Tory revolt against his leadership.
He will hope the pledges to assist individuals on to the property ladder will please rebel MPs and voters who are facing fresh pressures from the cost-of-living crisis.
But the details of the schemes will be closely examined, with fundamental questions remaining about how housing supply can be increased rather than more measures to stimulate demand.
Housing Secretary Michael Gove said the Government would ensure a “like-for-like, one-for-one replacement” for any social housing sold to tenants under the scheme – addressing one of the criticisms of Margaret Thatcher’s flagship right-to-buy policy which led to a sell-off of council homes.
He also told Sky News the Government was looking at a “savings vehicle” for people to use to build up a deposit.
Speaking in Lancashire, Mr Johnson will commit to detail “reforms to help people cut costs in every area of household expenditure” over the coming weeks.
He will argue that £30 billion in housing benefit that currently goes towards rent could help people secure and pay for mortgages, according to The Times, which first reported the plan.
But the newspaper said his separate desire to give millions of tenants the ability to pay for housing association properties at discounts of up to 70% is likely to be limited to a series of pilots for now, without additional Government funding.
The speech takes place during a cost-of-living crisis, underlined by figures showing the average cost of a full tank for a 55-litre family car has hit £100.
In his speech, Mr Johnson is set to say: “We have the tools we need to get on top of rising prices.
“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.”
Downing Street’s official briefing ahead of the speech contained little detail about the plans, 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.
Shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy said there are “big outstanding questions for the Government” on the practicalities of the plan to allow housing benefits to be used to buy homes.
The Labour MP questioned the Government’s aim to replace homes like-for-like, saying in a 2018 pilot “only around half of the landlords were planning to replace those homes and the homes that they did replace them with were actually more expensive and lower quality than the ones that were sold”.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’ve got a severe shortage of affordable housing in this country, we’ve got a million people on the housing waiting lists.
“By their own reckoning, this will help a few thousand families a year.
“For those families that will be very welcome, but if it makes the housing crisis worse for everybody else, I’m not sure why they wouldn’t come forward with a proper plan that actually starts to increase the supply of affordable housing, cuts costs for lease holders, which is one of the things that we’re proposing today, and get money back into people’s pockets right now.”
Mr Johnson is in a fight for authority after surviving a confidence vote on Monday despite 148 of his own MPs – or 41% of Conservatives – saying they want him out of No 10.
Aaron Bell, the Tory elected to Newcastle-under-Lyme in 2019 who was among those voting against the Prime Minister, gave Mr Johnson a year to turn things round, aligned with the current 1922 Committee rules for a next leadership challenge.
“The rules say he has 12 months. I think that’s a fair assessment of the amount of time that he’s got to convince people that he can turn this round,” he told ITV’s Peston.
But Mr Bell did not rule out colleagues calling on the committee of Tory backbenchers to change the rules to allow for a sooner vote, with one potential flashpoint being the Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton by-elections later this month.
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