Headlines: March 7th, 2003

Changes are to be made in the Right to Buy regulations in forty-one local authority areas in London and the south of England to tackle severe housing pressures and reduce homelessness. The Housing Minister, Jeff Rooker announced that the councils would have their maximum Right to Buy discounts lowered.All but one of the councils affected were in the list of local authority areas identified in January as being under severe pressure. London borough of Greenwich has been added to the list while two councils, Christchurch and Spelthorne, have had their requests to be excluded from the scheme accepted.

All the councils named as being under severe pressure were given an opportunity to put forward reasons for not being included. In addition to Spelthorne and Christchurch, the London boroughs of Enfield, Hillingdon, Wandsworth and, Westminster chose to do so but Lord Rooker said they had failed to produce specific evidence to support their cases. He said that apart from housing pressures in London generally, research by Heriot-Watt University had found clear evidence that the Right to Buy rules were being exploited in London.

Christchurch and Spelthorne, meanwhile had demonstrated that housing market pressures in their areas did not justify the impact that lowering discounts would have on local social tenants.

Lord Rooker said the modernisation of the Right to Buy scheme demonstrated how the Government was continuing to support home ownership. It was actively supporting alternative home ownership schemes, such as the Starter Home Initiative, which is designed to free social housing at the same time as promoting private home ownership.