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Right to Buy

Volume 537: debated on Monday 5 December 2011

The right-to-buy scheme was a transforming policy that enabled 2 million people to own their own home, so we will shortly consult on proposals to reinvigorate the right to buy, offering tenants discounts that will once again enable them to purchase their homes.

The original right-to-buy scheme was an outstanding success. Will my hon. Friend confirm that increasing the discount available to tenants will increase social mobility and allow hard-working families to take their firsts steps up the housing ladder?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Nothing did more for social mobility in this country than the right-to-buy scheme and those 2 million families who got to own their own home. Sadly, the number of homes purchased under the right-to-buy scheme dwindled to about 2,600 last year because the discounts were cut so much. We will consult, we will ensure that those discounts are raised and, critically, we will replace each home sold under the right-to-buy scheme with another affordable home for rent.

I declare an indirect interest as previously recorded by Hansard.

In his autumn statement, the Chancellor studiously avoided, like the Minister has done in the past—although I note his comment today—using the term “like-for-like replacement” of affordable housing. The chief executive of Plymouth Community Homes has stated publicly that he will probably have to sell two, perhaps three, discounted homes to build one in the same area. Will the Minister tell us whether his like-for-like offer, about which his own Back Benchers are sceptical, refers to a property in the same area and of the same size, and will he explain how that will be tracked?

I am sorry that the hon. Lady is no longer my opposite number. When she was, I explained that it is now possible, through the affordable rent programme, to build a home for affordable rent by investing less public money than previously—that is, of course, because the rent is at an intermediate level. However, it is also supported by housing benefit, which means that rather than seeing a net reduction of 200,000 affordable homes for rent, as happened under the previous Administration, we will be building more of them.