Right to buy hits cheap housing

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Public Policy Editor

A district council has called a halt to its rural housing programme in the face of Government proposals to give housing association tenants a new right to buy.

The Liberal Democrat- controlled New Forest council has decided to approve no new low-rent housing in green belt or other parts of the New Forest where it would not normally approve new houses, for fear that new homes would be sold as holiday lets, or to commuters, once the planned voluntary purchase grant of pounds 16,000 takes effect.

The decision comes as housing experts are warning that the low-rent housing association homes may prove impossible to replace in key rural areas once the right-to-buy comes in.

Richard Best, director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and a rural development commissioner, said: "In future, landowners may well be unwilling to make available sites on favourable terms, and planners less willing to provide consent, if there is a chance that the homes will be lost."

He said limited safeguards over resale of the homes which the Government proposed do not go far enough, and suggests that schemes of up to a dozen homes in settlements of fewer than 3,000 people should be exempted from the right to buy.

Patrick Hughes, New Forest's planning officer, said two existing small schemes in the village of Sway and the town of New Milton - both on land for which planning permission would not be granted for private housing - would go ahead because the council can still impose conditions preventing resale.The houses will thus remain as low-rent accommodation for local people. If the housing White Paper proposals become law, however, it would prove impossible to attach such conditions in future.

A country house, section two