'Turn benefits to bricks': PM sets out housing shake up to help claimants buy homes

9 June 2022, 16:08

Boris Johnson announced the housing plans today
Boris Johnson announced the housing plans today. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

A "comprehensive review" of the mortgage market has been announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in a bid to help people onto the property ladder.

The PM used a major speech in Lancashire today to vow to revive Margaret Thatcher's housing revolution for low-income families.

He announced moves to extend the 'Right to Buy', which helped millions purchase their council properties at huge discounts in the 1980s and 1990s.

Mr Johnson said the plans would help 2.5m people who are ‘trapped’ in homes belonging to housing associations to buy their own property.

A government review will also look at the wider mortgage market aiming to increase access to 95 per cent loans for properties.  

“It’s time to turn benefits to bricks,' the PM said in his speech aimed at rebooting his troubled leadership.

“We are going to look to change the rules on welfare so that the 1.5million working people who are in receipt of housing benefits – I stress working people – and who want to buy their first home will be given a new choice: to spend their benefit on rent, as now, or put it towards a first-ever mortgage.”

Setting out his housing policy reforms, Boris Johnson said: "We will finish the right-to-own reforms Margaret Thatcher began in the 1980s.

"Ending the absurd position where first-time buyers spend their life savings on flats only to find themselves charged hundreds of pounds for painting their own doors or even unable to own a dog."

The measures include "dealing with the scourge of unfair leasehold terms" which impact 4.6 million households.

"We will supercharge leaseholders' ability to buy their own freehold," he said, with discounts of up to 90% for those "trapped with egregious, escalating ground rents".

Mr Johnson also used today’s speech to warn of a "wage-price spiral" if pay packets increase in line with soaring inflation.

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said the right to buy plans were "baffling, unworkable, and a dangerous gimmick".

"Hatching reckless plans to extend right to buy will put our rapidly shrinking supply of social homes at even greater risk," she said.

"If these plans progress we will remain stuck in the same destructive cycle of selling off and knocking down thousands more social homes than get built each year."

Mr Johnson's 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.

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.

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".

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.

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