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Press Release: 11.04.09

11th April 2009

Radical overhaul of housing policy in pipeline

Gordon Henderson has welcomed plans for a radical overhaul of housing policy, thirty years on from the unveiling of the Right to Buy, which transformed council estates. Under new Conservative proposals, tenants in social housing across Swale are to be offered the chance of genuine social mobility and equality of opportunity.

The Tory hope is that pride will be restored to local neighbourhoods, helping address anti-social behaviour and encourage social responsibility. Local homes will be built for local people, with the community – not bureaucrats in Whitehall – having the final say on the number and type of homes that should be built.

The initiative comes as the latest analysis shows as the average house in Swale costs £196,534, compared to average earnings of £28,480. This means that the average house is 6.9 times average earnings.

The detailed proposals include:

Rewards for good behaviour: Offering tenants with a record of five years’ good tenant behaviour a 10% equity share in their social rented property, which can be cashed in when they want to move up the housing ladder. This will give tenants a direct financial stake in the state of their neighbourhood, and reward law-abiding citizens who pay their rent on time, keep their garden tidy, and ensure their children stay out of trouble. By contrast, Labour policies reinforce and reward welfare dependency.

A ‘Right to Move’: Introducing a comprehensive national mobility scheme for good tenants who wish to move to other social sector properties, and piloting a scheme which allows good social tenants to demand that their social landlord sell their current property and use the proceeds, minus transaction costs, to buy (and thereby bring into the social rented sector) another property of their choice – anywhere in England.

Local Housing Trusts: Allowing villages and towns to create entirely new community-led bodies with planning powers to develop local homes for local people, provided there is strong community backing. Affordable homes built by Local Housing Trusts will remain in local ownership in perpetuity, ensuring that future generations can benefit.

More family homes and stopping garden grabbing: Reversing the classification of gardens as brownfield land, and allowing councils to prevent over-development of neighbourhoods and stop 'garden grabbing', which has resulted in a glut of flats, the demolition of suburban family homes and concreting over of their gardens.

Incentives not top-down targets: Scrapping regional planning and enabling councils to revise their current local plans to protect Green Belt land and prevent the unwanted imposition of so-called eco-towns. Instead, councils will keep more of the proceeds of new house building from council tax receipts, giving incentives to support new sustainable development.

Mr Henderson said:

“Given the average house in Swale costs almost seven times more than the local average earnings, we need to do more to help people get on and move up the housing ladder. We need social housing which promotes opportunity and social mobility, rather than reinforcing welfare dependency.

 “I welcome the plans to give an equity stake to social tenants in Swale. It will reward the socially responsible citizens who pay their rent on time and keep their kids in check, and help restore a sense of pride to all our neighbourhoods.

“One of our priorities must be to champion the vulnerable and help the 4000 or so people on the housing waiting list in Swale, but at the same time we must protect our green spaces. Achieving both ambitions will be a difficult balancing act and will need some imaginative policies.

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