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The BBC's Rory MacLean
"Nurses are welcoming the interest-free loans for housing"
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The BBC's Judith Maloney
"The widest ranging look at housing issues for 23 years"
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Housing Minister Nick Raynsford
"An adequate supply of social housing for people in need"
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Tuesday, 4 April, 2000, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Homes help for teachers and nurses

The paper will cover social and private housing
Teachers, nurses and other key public sector workers could receive government help to find and buy homes as part of a major shake-up of the UK's housing market.

The Starter Home initiative for people living in areas where property is expensive is one of a series of proposals in the government's Green Paper on housing, which was unveiled on Tuesday afternoon.

Number of homes built
1979: 210,000
1997: 149,000
1998: 141,000
(Source: DETR)
The plan, which Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said could involve interest-free loans or development grants for people on modest incomes, is part of what the government is calling "the first comprehensive review of housing in 23 years".

The proposals would also give local authorities a wider duty to aid the young, single homeless and extend the "safety net" for the homeless to 16- and 17-year-olds.

The proposals come amid growing concern over the state of housing in the UK, with some experts saying that spiralling house prices in southern England are pricing some people out of the region.

Mr Prescott, who has responsibility for housing at the department of environment, transport and the regions, outlined a range of options aimed at tackling problems in both the social and private housing sectors.

The paper proposes a review of rents and housing benefit and a national fraud hotline and plans to give local authorities borrowing powers to invest in homes.

Housing experts say that if house prices continue to rise in south east England, key public workers will be priced out of the region, leading to a shortage of teachers, nurses and others in London.

Home repairs

Under Mr Prescott's plans, top-up mortgages could be offered on homes costing 125,000 or less.

Mr Prescott said the government would also help unemployed home owners moving back into work pay their mortgage interest for the first four weeks after they start their new job.

He said the government was also proposing a new range of options to help more people, especially the elderly, make essential home repairs.

Mr Prescott said the government would give local communities selective powers to license private landlords where unscrupulous landlords were destabilising a local community.

He said tenants would also be given more choice about where they live as part of proposals to improve the quality of social housing.

He told MPs the government would also support the transfer of up to 200,000 homes each year from local authorities to registered social landlords.

'Policy failure'

He said: "People should have a real choice between buying a home and renting without a sense of stigma or snobbery."

Shadow Environment, Transport and the Regions Secretary Archie Norman said the Conservatives welcomed Mr Prescott's proposals for shared ownership and aspirations to improve social housing.

But he said the overall thrust of the green paper highlighted the "policy failure" of the government.

The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions has estimated that 3.8 million new households will be needed by 2016.

Last month, Mr Prescott said that he wanted 43,000 houses built in south east England every year for the next five years.

Serplan, the consortium of south east England planning authorities, told the government that no more than 33,400 homes could be built annually without serious environmental damage to the region.

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