PM to reveal council housebuilding boom

Theresa May is expected to unveil the UK’s biggest council housebuilding programme in a generation at the Conservative Party conference later today.

The prime minister is believed to have made housing policy central to her speech, and is expected to reveal a host of new policies to boost public and private housebuilding, with local authorities being given the go ahead to raise funds to build their own homes.

May will also instruct communities secretary Sajid Javid to force local authorities to assess local housing needs and set new targets to construct more homes in their area.

Under one plan being considered, promoted by May’s chief of staff and former housing minister Gavin Barwell, the government could use publicly-owned land and order developers to hit tough new targets to build affordable homes at a faster rate. Another option could also include compulsory purchase of privately-owned land for new council house sites.

During the 1970s local authorities built more than a million homes, but the figures plummeted in the 1980s after then prime minister Margaret Thatcher introduced the Right to Buy scheme, which allowed council tenants to buy their rented homes at huge discounts.

Since the government’s relaunch of Right to Buy in 2012, only one new council home has been built for every eight sold. In the past five years 38,479 homes have been sold under the scheme, but just 4,594 were built or acquired by local authorities.

Help to Buy

The new housing drive is considered by May as essential to meet government targets to build a million homes within five years and is one of the prime minister’s key attempts to wrestle young voters away from Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Last weekend, May announced the government will provide an extra £10bn for its Help to Buy scheme. The government claims the cash will allow another 135,000 people to get on the property ladder, allowing first-time buyers to gain a mortgage with a 5% deposit on newly-built homes. Details of the funding will be fleshed out in the autumn Budget.

Housebuilding collapsed after the financial crash of 2008/9, falling from more than 215,000 homes a year in 2007/8 to just 130,000 in 2012/13. While 140,660 homes were built in 2016, the figure remained significantly below the government targets.

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