David Cameron has launched reinvigorated right-to-buy scheme
David Cameron has launched reinvigorated' right-to-buy scheme (Reuters / Phil Noble) Reuters

Prime Minister David Cameron's new right-to-buy scheme has come under fire from a housing charity.

The scheme will see council house tenants being offered a discount of up to £75,000 to help them buy their own homes and represents a quadrupling of the discount cap in London.

Cameron aims to quadruple the number of people able to "achieve the dream of homeownership" in proposals that he hopes will result in 200,000 jobs being created and the construction of 100,000 homes.

However, concerns have been raised that the scheme will simply see the affordable housing pool diminished.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of the homeless charity Shelter, said: "We know that right-to-buy mortgage holders are three times more likely than other homeowners to be repossessed, so it's vital that rigorous affordability checks are in place to make sure people who are tempted by these schemes can really afford to buy their own home."

He raised concerns that the homes sold will not be replaced like for like, with landlords being able to charge up to 80 percent of market rates.

"At a time when we already have a critical shortage of affordable housing in this country, this amounts to little more than asset stripping and will ultimately mean fewer genuinely affordable homes for families struggling on low incomes," he added.

Housing minister Grant Shapps said the scheme would not result in a loss of housing stock and was self-funding, with the discount being smaller than the £23,000 cost to the taxpayer of councils building new homes.

He said: "This government is unashamedly on the side of hard-working families who want to aspire to owning their own council homes. We are also determined to slash the council housing waiting list which doubled under Labour."

Since Margaret Thatcher's right-to-buy scheme of the 1980s, two million council houses have been bought by tenants. Cameron said the discounts, which have fallen from 50 percent of market value of a property to 10 percent in London, had become "virtually meaningless".

He said: "I want many more people to achieve the dream of homeownership. In the 1980s, right to buy helped millions of people living in council housing to achieve their aspiration of owning their own home.

"It gave something back to families who worked hard, paid their rent and played by the rules. It allowed them to do up their home, change their front door, improve their garden - without getting permission from the council.

"It gave people a sense of pride and ownership not just in their home, but in their street and neighbourhood, helping to build strong families and stable mixed communities.

"But, over time, the discounts were cut; they didn't keep pace with rises in property prices and this vital rung on the property ladder was all but removed," he added.

"This government is now putting it back by dramatically increasing the discount rates, so that we support the dreams of those council tenants who want to own the roof over their head."