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CURRY EXEMPTS RURAL AREAS FROM HOUSING ASSOCIATION RTB

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Local government and housing minister David Curry was due today to set out an intellectual justificatin for the gov...
Local government and housing minister David Curry was due today to set out an intellectual justificatin for the governemnt's housing white paper.

Extracts of his speech to the Conservative party conference in Blackpool follow:

'We are the party of home ownership. Not out of dogma. Not out of any notion of moral superiority.

But because, owning their home is the natural aspiration of most people in this country. Because home ownership is the asset which has launched millions of small businesses. Because spreading home ownership is the keystone of urban regeneration.

When we introduced the Right to Buy for council tenants we responded directly to the aspirations of millions of people - people Labour would have left to rent until they died.

Because of our policies, over one and a half million households have been able to buy their home. And let no one talk glibly of that dream being exhausted, of the fires of aspiration turning to embers. Those same policies of helping people to buy a home of their own are still bringing 70,000 households a year, 200 households a day, into home ownership.

But that is not good enough. We must go further. We need to bring home ownership within the grasp o more people. That is why we will extend the Right to Buy to housing association tenants.

Some housing association tenants have the right already. We will give housing associations incentives they offer home ownership voluntarily to far more existing tenants. But all new homes provided by housing associations with public money will carry the Right to Buy. We want to see people with initiative and ambition staying in their communities to make that community work better.

And the housing associations will keep all the income from a sale so that they can provide more homes in the same area.

But we understand that circumstance are not the same right across the country. We don't believe in identikit polices, laid down in Whitehall and applied without flexibility and imagination. I know all about the housing problems that are common in rural areas. I represent a vast area o rural Yorkshire. I know how important it is for people to continue to make land available for rural housing. They have the right to expect that those houses should continue to be available or rent. That is why we will exempt rural areas from the new scheme.

But there are, of course, millions of our citizens for whom home ownership is not within reach. And they deserve, just like anyone else, a decent home around which they can build their lives.

We all know what the term 'social housing' conjures up in the minds of Labour: that old municipal paternalism, the patronage of the council housing bureaucrats, the acres of uniformity ordered, regulated and too often soulless.

We have a different ambition and a more exciting prospect. We cannot meet the challenges which will face us in the 21st century with the tools and the mind set of the 1940's.

We all know what that challenge is: social change. An ageing population - the number of people aged over 85 will increase by 60% over the next 20 years; growing numbers of lone parents and people living alone; 1.7million extra households over the next decade, and four out of every five of those households consisting of a person living alone.

We cannot meet those needs with the single idea that the taxpayer finds all. We must call in the private sector to form a new partnership with government. We need its skills, we need its ideas and, yes, we need its investment. Capitalism set to work to deliver the social good.

That is why we will legislate to allow private firms to bid for government money to build homes for rent in competition with, but on fair terms with, the housing associations.'

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