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LONDON, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Britain is to set out plans on Tuesday to make renting more affordable and provide extra protection for tenants, in a shift away from decades of government policy almost solely promoting home ownership.
Since Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher began selling off council homes in the 1980s, very little social housing has been built, with successive administrations instead devising policies to help those trying to get a foot on the property ladder.
As a consequence, demand has outstripped supply in many areas, pushing up prices to over eight times average earnings and forcing many to spend up to half of their income on rent.
On Tuesday, the government will set out plans in parliament to expand programmes to help those wishing to rent rather than buy, change planning laws to encourage long-term build-to-rent schemes and push for longer-term tenancies.
"The government will put measures to tackle the high cost of renting at the heart of its plan to fix the broken housing market," the communities and local government ministry said in a statement.
A previously announced 7 billion-pound ($8.7 billion) programme designed to build 225,000 properties by 2021 was originally limited to those wishing to buy at least a share of the home, but will now be opened up to tenants as well.
The government is also seeking to speed up housebuilding, boost small and medium-sized builders and push for greater transparency, to highlight where developers have received planning permission but are not yet building.
The package of measures is designed to increase the number of new homes coming onto the market in England from 190,000 units a year to at least 250,000, after years of falling short.
Despite a series of bipartisan efforts already in place to increase supply, there are signs that housebuilding could stall or even fall in the coming years.
Britain's biggest housebuilder Barratt said last month it might build fewer homes in the current financial year and posted a more than 50 percent drop in London, which it blamed on build cycles and land prices.
A closely-watched leading indicator of future housing supply also fell nationwide by 2 percent in 2016 and by a third in London, where the shortage is most acute, according to data from the National House-Building Council.
Some builders are concerned that any Brexit-imposed restrictions on immigration could affect their ability to maintain current levels of construction, never mind boost output. On some London building sites most workers come from other countries in the European Union. ($1 = 0.8020 pounds) (Reporting by Costas Pitas; editing by Andrew Roche)