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Council Houses (Sale)

Volume 973: debated on Wednesday 14 November 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what percentage of local authority tenants he estimates will have incomes adequate to enable them to exercise the proposed rights to purchase local authority housing, without imposing financial liabilities on members of the tenant's household, other than the tenant's wife or husband.

It is not possible to give a reliable estimate on the information available.

I refer the Minister to the series of written questions which he and his hon. Friends answered on Friday, which showed that the average income of two-thirds of local authority tenants was below £4,000 a year. The average price of local authority houses and flats is more than £10,500. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, at best, only one-third of local authority tenants could conceivably benefit from the proposal to sell council houses, whatever the discount?

The hon. Gentleman should be aware that about 250,000 council tenants have already been able to buy their homes and flats. We are not in the business of chasing numbers, but we wish to give tenants the opportunity to buy their homes. That was our commitment at the election, and that is what we shall do.

Does the Minister agree that the shared purchase scheme proposals will help to overcome the problems referred to by Opposition Members?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The scheme will help low-income buyers to gain access to home ownership, which otherwise they would not have.

Has the Minister sent a reply to the letter that he received from the National Council of Building Material Producers? It wrote to him warning that the diversion of scarce building society funds for council house sales could significantly affect the level of private house building by raising mortgage rates to sky-high levels and creating a famine. Why are the Government clobbering the private home owner?

The right hon. Gentleman should be aware from the consultation paper that we see no reason why council tenants should not have the same right of access to building society mortgages as everyone else. It is for the building societies to decide whether they will give an applicant a mortgage in the normal way.

Does my hon. Friend agree that where an elderly widow living in a local authority property is unable, because of certain circumstances, to buy that property the right should be given to her next of kin?

We are making provision in proposed legislation whereby a sitting tenant who has other members of the household living with him may undertake a joint purchase. That will be valuable in the circumstances to which my hon. Friend refers.

Does the Minister accept that by that policy low-income families currently in council accommodation will face the prospect of decent accommodation receding ever-further from them?

It is evident that those who wish to buy are doing so with a view to staying.