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TORIES CALL FOR END TO LAST COUNCIL HOUSES

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A Conservative think tank has advocated scrapping councils' duties to find permanent homes for the homeless and cal...
A Conservative think tank has advocated scrapping councils' duties to find permanent homes for the homeless and called for a massive extension of the right to buy scheme. Choose Your landlord, published by the Conservative Political Centre based in the Tories' headquarters, proposes councils sell all their housing over the next 10 years, with tenants acquiring a 40% stake in their homes and a private landlord or co-operative owning the remainder. Rents would be set at 60% of the market rate for unfurnished property, which it claims would be little more than present rents. The pamphlet, by Peter Thurnham MP, proposes a radical overhaul of the housing benefit system, with existing spending being capped and benefits gradually being replaced by a fixed housing element in family credit payments.

Nearly 1.5 million council homes have been sold since 1980 under the right to buy scheme. Around 118,000 have been sold to housing associations and other bodies while another 43,500 are in the pipeline. But councils still control 4.5m homes.

People who are homeless or threatened with homelessness take up to 70% of housing association lettings. In the pamphlet Mr Thurnham equates homelessness with being 'irresponsible'. He told LGC he had not intended to apply this description across the board.

He wants to scrap local government's duty to find permanent accommodation for the homeless. Instead, homeless families should be found assured shorthold tenancies in the private sector for a minimum of six months, the system already operated by Tory controlled Derby City Council and Wandsworth LBC.

The report does not address the problems of former tenants who have already bought their council homes in tower blocks and are now trapped there because building societies will not lend money to potential buyers of these properties.

'I admit there is a problem there', Mr Thurnham told LGC. But he did not think this would put off potential landlords. 'Everything has a price so by definition it is possible to sell it', he said.

The report supports tax incentives to encourage more people to become private landlords and more houses to be built for rent. 'The first round of right to buy has proved a popular and practical success. We now need round two, which in ten years could free the market in rented accommodation, make council house waiting lists a thing of the past and enable tenants to benefit from the positive attitude of enthusiastic private investors', Mr Thurnham said.

l Choose Your Landlord by Peter Thurnham MP is published by Conservative Political Centre, price £3.50. Tel: 071 222 9000.

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