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Local Government Association (LGA) figures report that 12,246 council homes were sold to tenants under Right to Buy in England during the last year and that only 2,055 were in the pipeline to be replaced by councils. This is a decrease in replacement social housing by 27% on the previous year and is an indication that only 17% of council properties sold resulting in direct replenishment of the market. This is despite ever increasing demand, waiting lists and government hostility to the private rental sector in the form of the retrospective clause 24 punitive tax attack.
Since Margaret Thatcher started the Right to Buy scheme to encourage home ownership in the early 1980s, nearly 2 million councils homes have been sold to tenants. The total number of homes across England rented by councils has fallen from 31% to just 17% with much of the slack having been taken up by the private sector.
Right to buy usage had slowed down in the last decade until the Tory government under David Cameron kick started the scheme in 2012 by quadrupling the discounts available to London tenants.
The Right to Buy scheme has already been scrapped in Scotland over social housing supply fears and the Labour controlled Welsh assembly has recently indicated it is looking to do the same. If councils are not given more help to fund replacement housing the LGA has said that Right to Buy should be scrapped in England as well.
Nick Forbes, LGA senior vice chair, said current government policy restricted local authority ability to replace homes and “Right to buy will quickly become a thing of the past in England if councils continue to be prevented from building new homes.
“Housing reforms that reduce rents and force councils to sell homes will make building new properties and replacing those sold even more difficult. Such a loss in social housing risks pushing more people into the more expensive private rented sector, increasing homelessness and housing benefit spending.”
The Department for Communities and Local Government said “we’re committed to building the homes this country needs and investing £8 billion to build 400,000 more affordable homes. There is a rolling three year deadline for local authorities to deliver an additional affordable home and so far they have delivered well within their sales profile.
“However, we have always been clear that if local authorities don’t start building replacement homes within the three year deadline, then we will step in and build them for them.”
There seems at the moment to be a clear divide between central government planning policy and what is being reported by councils on the ground, which looks to only exacerbate the current housing crisis further if nothing is done.
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