PRIME Minister David Cameron is to pledge to extend the “right-to-buy” housing policy of 1980s predecessor Margaret Thatcher on Tuesday in a bid to seize victory in a close-fought election race.
Cameron is keen to take momentum from the rival centre-left Labour party, whose leader Ed Miliband has promised to increase the minimum wage and end “zero-hours contracts” which guarantee no minimum number of work hours.
The policy allows social housing tenants to buy their homes from local authorities at a deep discount, and Cameron will say it shows his Conservatives are “the party of working people” at the Tuesday manifesto launch.
Opinion polls show the two parties are neck-and-neck ahead of the election on May 7, which is expected to produce another coalition or a minority government.
“Conservatives have dreamed of building a property-owning democracy for generations, and today I can tell you what this generation of Conservatives is going to do,” Cameron will say at the manifesto launch in Wiltshire.
“The next Conservative Government will extend the Right to Buy to all housing association tenants in this country - 1.3 million extra families; a new generation given the security of a home of their own.
“So this generation of Conservatives can proudly say it: the dream of a property-owning democracy is alive - and we will fulfil it.”
Aimed at Britain’s housing crisis, a hot political issue as house prices and private rents have soared amid a shortage of low-cost homes, the pledge will extend a policy first introduced by Thatcher in 1980.
It will extend home purchase discounts enjoyed by council tenants to 1.3 million tenants of housing associations—private non-profits that provide low-rent “social housing” that often receive public subsidy.
Council tenants can currently buy their homes with up to a 70 percent discount, while housing association tenants can claim a much smaller discount.
The increase would be funded by forcing local councils to sell their most valuable properties on the private market as soon as they become vacant. Cameron promised additional funding to build 400,000 new homes.
The original “right-to-buy” policy has been accused of fuelling Britain’s housing crisis by reducing the affordable housing available.
But Cameron insisted this would not be the case this time as his plan would require each property sold to be replaced on a one-for-one basis.