The General Principles of the Abolition of the Right to Buy and Associated Rights (Wales) Bill
Plenary Tuesday 18 July 201718:30:06
Spoken Contribution – 18:30:06
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The Welsh Government’s abolition of the right to buy Bill seeks to address the issue of the social housing stock, and this certainly is a serious issue, but of course we have to find the most effective means of addressing the problem.
There are various aspects to the housing crisis. Abolishing the right to buy is one way of looking at the problem, but it is only a small part of the overall picture. There are only insignificant numbers of right-to-buy sales being transacted now, in comparison to 20 or 30 years ago. We in UKIP accept that the right to buy has been problematic in some ways. It was wrong that the proceeds of council house sales were not allowed to flow back into the pot of money allowing new council houses to be built. We would advocate a policy whereby all future revenue from right-to-buy sales is ploughed back into social housing. We do accept the evidence that this would, in itself, in no way facilitate a like-for-like replacement of one social housing property sold for another one built. This is not economically feasible, as various witnesses asserted during the inquiry at the committee stage.
But there are a variety of tools available to the Welsh Government to stimulate further house building in Wales. In UKIP, we advocate the construction of more factory-built modular homes, which could be much more affordable than conventionally built houses. And the Welsh Government’s own finance Minister, Mark Drakeford, recently alluded to the problem of land banking, whereby major property developers hold considerable land assets, but not do build on them for many years. With the advent of the Welsh Government’s new tax powers, ways could be devised—again, as Mark Drakeford has suggested—in which to prod the developers into building. We think this could open up a new vista of opportunity.
When the Minister brought his proposed legislation to the ELGC committee, I was broadly sympathetic to the objectives, and I listened to the evidence. I’ve taken the Government’s case back to the UKIP group to test out the propositions, and to subject them to robust discussion and debate. Ultimately, the group took a decisive view that removing the right to buy was too strong an impediment to the aspiration of property ownership. Therefore, as a group, we are not supporting the general principle of the Bill, and we would urge the Minister to look at the other levers he now has available to him to allow for much higher levels of house building in Wales than we’ve seen in recent years.