Rent-to-buy scheme condemned as a trap

YESTERDAY'S launch of a government publicity drive to encourage council tenants to buy their homes under the 'rent- to-mortgage' scheme drew immediate warnings from Labour that buyers risked being trapped in unsaleable properties, write Patricia Wynn Davies and David Nicholson-Lord.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders also advised tenants of high rise flats to think carefully before committing themselves. The scheme allows council and housing association tenants to wholly or partly purchase their homes on mortgages costing no more than their rent.

Announcing the extension of the scheme from three pilot areas to the whole country, Sir George Young, the housing minister, insisted yesterday that the campaign was designed to provide information and not as a 'hard sell'.

More than 1.4 million council tenants and thousands more housing association tenants paying full rent could probably afford to buy their homes, he said.

However, a report today from the Labour-controlled Association of London Authorities says thousands of home- owners who bought their council flats under right-to-buy are finding their properties unsaleable because of a clampdown by mortgage lenders, many of whom are refusing to lend on high-rise flats above four storeys.

Peter Challis, the ALA's chair of housing, said Sir George's campaign should come 'with a health warning'.

The survey's findings were confirmed by the Council of Mortgage Lenders, which acknowledged that the resale prospects for people in former council flats were gloomy.

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