A Conservative government would extend the right-to-buy scheme for housing association tenants in England, David Cameron will say, as he unveils his party’s general election manifesto.
The PM will say up to 1.3 million tenants could buy their homes at a discount as a result, insisting the Tories are the party of working people.
The Conservatives will also pledge a fund to help build 400,000 new homes.
Labour said the right-to-buy pledge would cost £4.5bn and was “unfunded”.
The Conservative launch in Wiltshire comes the day after Ed Miliband put forward Labour’s version – promising to improve the lives of Britain’s workers and not to pay for any policies through additional borrowing.
In other election news:
- The Green Party will launch its manifesto, pledging to “take back” the NHS
- The Liberal Democrats are due to highlight their own housing policies, which involve the government commissioning the building of new homes, and a pledge of at least 10 new garden cities in England and 300,00 new homes a year.
- Nick Clegg has told the BBC he will not work with the Conservatives after the election if they insist on £12bn of welfare cuts
- The latest Ashcroft and Populus opinion polls put both the Conservatives and Labour on 33%
A key pledge of the Conservative manifesto will be the extension of right to buy, a flagship policy of Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s, for tenants of housing associations – private, not-for-profit bodies that provide low-cost housing.
Under current rules, about 800,000 housing association tenants have a “right to acquire” their homes under smaller discounts, but the Conservatives would offer those people the same reductions as for those in local authority homes.
And they would extend the scheme to those who currently have no purchase rights at all, estimated to be about 500,000 people.
The move would be funded by new rules forcing councils to sell properties ranked in the most expensive third of their type in the local area, once they become vacant.
The Conservatives say every house purchased will be replaced “on a one-for-one basis” with more affordable homes and no-one will be forced to leave their home.
Right to buy
- People living in council houses are entitled to purchase their homes at a discounted rate, which depends on the type of property and how long they have been a council tenant
- The terms and discounts available vary in different parts of the United Kingdom
- The maximum discount is £77,900 across England, except in London boroughs, where it is £103,900
- It is being abolished by the Scottish government and also faces abolition in Wales, where the Labour administration says it wants to protect housing stock
The party said 15,000 homes would be sold and replaced every year as a result, and that the proceeds would also cover a fund to help councils bring derelict land back on brownfield sites to use.
Mr Cameron will say 400,000 new homes would be built over five years as a result and that “the dream of a property-owning democracy is alive”.
- Eliminating the deficit
- Cutting taxes by raising basic and higher rate starting points
- Helping people to own their own home and have financial independence in retirement
- Providing an education system that helps children reach their potential
- Holding a referendum on Britain’s EU membership
Home Secretary Theresa May said the plan would be made possible by local authorities “managing their housing stock better” and selling their most expensive properties, some of which were occupied by a single family.
“That means more families can be housed. That is the key thing,” she told BBC Breakfast.
She added: “It shows the kind of government that the Conservatives would be. It shows that we are on the side of working people who want to get on and build a better future for themselves and their families.”
In his speech on Tuesday, Mr Cameron will say the Conservatives offer “security at every stage of your life” and warn against putting the last five years “at risk” by electing Labour.
“My message to Britain is this: we have come this far together. Let’s not waste the past five years. Now is not a time to put it all at risk, but to build on the progress we have made,” he will say.
Ed Miliband’s party has its own plans to encourage banks to fund 125,000 new homes for first-time buyers, as part of a plan to build 200,000 new homes every year by 2020.
Emma Reynolds, Labour’s shadow housing minister, called the right-to-buy pledge “yet another uncosted, unfunded and unbelievable announcement from the Tories”.
She added: “Having exhausted the magic money tree, the Tories now want people to believe that they can magic up billions of pounds a year from selling off a few council homes.
“Last year that raised just over £100m, while this policy costs £4.5bn a year.”
Ruth Davison, from the National Housing Federation – which represents housing associations – said the Conservatives’ extension of right-to-buy was “the wrong solution to our housing crisis”.
She said the policy would cost at least £5.8bn and that increasing the supply of homes should be the “nation’s top priority”.
Subscribe to the BBC Election 2015 newsletter to get a round-up of the day’s campaign news sent to your inbox every weekday afternoon.