Housing minister Hilary Armstrong, determined to cut the£400m annual cost of right-to-buy, wants the proposals to be law by February. Shadow environment secretary Gillian Shephard said: 'This is clearly an attempt to start to abolish right-to-buy by the back door'. She added that Labour's 'hostility to home ownership remains, as this mean measure shows'.
About 40,000 tenants took advantage of the scheme last year. Council officers are bracing themselves for a flood of applications before the changes become law.
The largest cuts will be made in London and the south east, where property prices are higher.
Ministers insist only one in 10 potential buyers will be affected.