The Government are taking a range of steps to promote home ownership, including helping almost 100,000 households through the Help to Buy scheme. The Government have extended the Help to Buy equity loan to 2020, introduced a Help to Buy ISA and extended the right to buy, and we are delivering 200,000 new starter homes.
Hundreds of Basingstoke residents have a home of their own because of this Government’s Help to Buy policy. What assurances can the Minister give today that Help to Buy will continue into the future, because we are currently putting together our local plan, which includes a commitment to more affordable housing?
I can give my right hon. Friend the assurance that the Government want people who work hard and want to buy their own home to enjoy the security of owning their own home. The equity loan scheme will last until 2020, which should support another 120,000 households in Basingstoke and elsewhere to get on to, and up, the housing ladder. In addition, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced in his recent Budget, the Help to Buy ISA is expected to help over 1 million first-time buyers save for a deposit.
The Government’s policies were not popular in every part of the country, in particular in my constituency. May I therefore ask the Minister, as this has been a week for U-turns, to listen to the National Housing Federation, the CBI and the Institute for Fiscal Studies and revisit right to buy for housing association stock, which will lead to a decrease in the availability of affordable homes for rent, and to deal instead with the fundamental problem of housing supply?
I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the House. This Government are firmly on the side of those people who want the right to buy their own properties, and that includes extending the right to buy to housing association properties. Perhaps he will agree with the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field), who published a report with the Institute for Public Policy Research in recent years calling on his party to do exactly the same thing.
Many hard-working homeowners in my constituency take in lodgers to meet their mortgage repayments. However, the rent-a-room tax-free threshold has remained unchanged at £4,250 a year since 1997. Now that the deficit is being paid down, would it not be a positive step to help aspirational homeowners by raising the rent-a-room tax-free threshold?
I welcome my hon. Friend to the Chamber. He clearly brings a wealth of experience in this area, and he is right to highlight the fact that people who rent out a room can receive the first £4,250 tax-free. I note the point that he has made. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is sitting beside me and he will no doubt take that as a Budget submission and consider it as part of that process.
Following on from that question, one aspect of the tax gap that everyone admits is part of the problem is the collection of tax on rental properties. Will the Minister confirm that there will be a Treasury study on how to deal with the tax gap on rental properties, in order to find out how big it is and how we can challenge it?
The right hon. Lady is right to highlight that point. It is important to recognise that although the first £4,250 of rent is covered by the allowance, once it goes above that level it becomes taxable income. HMRC is constantly looking at ways in which it can improve the collection rate in that area.