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David Cameron Will Make All "Affordable Housing" Available To Buy

The prime minister is changing the rules on what counts as an affordable home.

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David Cameron will today put home ownership at the centre of his plan to tackle the housing crisis when he announces that all new affordable homes built by property developers must be made available to buy for people under the age of 40.

Amid growing concern that a generation of young people are being priced out by rising house prices and rents, Cameron will make housing the centrepiece of his speech to the Conservative party conference in Manchester by announcing that he will replace the requirement to build homes for affordable rent with a plan to build more starter homes.

But while the move is likely to benefit young people who have the ability to afford a mortgage deposit, it could reduce the supply of new housing available through affordable rent and shared ownership schemes.

Cameron will tell the Conservative party conference in Manchester: "Those old rules which said to developers: you can build on this site, but only if you build affordable homes for rent ... we're replacing them with new rules: you can build here, and those affordable homes can be available to buy."

Conservative politicians are increasingly concerned about the housing crisis, with London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith insisting it is his "number one priority" following Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's decision to make housing one of his main campaigning issues.

At the moment developers are required to build a certain proportion of homes in each development as affordable housing. Those homes are then made available either at below-market rents or in shared ownership schemes where the buyer can purchase as little as 25% of the house or flat to help them on to the housing ladder.

The Conservatives claim that this requirement is red tape that is holding back property developers from building new sites and stopping people from owning their own homes. They will now relax the rules so that "affordable housing" can mean any starter home sold at 80% of the market value.

Downing Street sources insist the move will increase the supply of housing, although they declined to put any fixed target on the number of new homes that will be built as a result.

There will be no means testing when it comes to eligibility for the new starter homes, meaning anyone under the age of 40 buying their first property and able to afford a starter home will meet the affordable housing standard. The affordable starter homes can be priced at a maximum of £250,000, or £450,000 in London.

In August, housing charity Shelter produced a report warning the government against allowing starter homes to count as affordable housing: "Rather than replacing other forms of affordable housing like Shared Ownership and Social Rent, the new Starter Homes should be additional to them, as was suggested originally in the Conservative manifesto for the General Election..."

The report concluded that the policy "would primarily help those on very high salaries or couples without children" and that the starter homes "are not a good replacement for other forms of affordable housing and will not help the majority of people on average wages struggling to get an affordable, decent home".

Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Jim Waterson at jim.waterson@buzzfeed.com.

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