No 1418 |13 May – 26 May 2016
A small change to the Housing and Planning Bill is set to make a huge difference to the Government’s scheme to force councils to sell their most valuable homes to pay for Right to Buy discounts for housing association tenants.
The scheme was at the heart of the Conservative election manifesto, but as the bill neared its final Parliamentary stage, the Government still hadn’t published much detail about how it would work. The original plan was set out in a Tory press release during the election campaign, and involved forcing to pay a levy based on the sale of “high value” homes [in the most valuable third of properties in their region] as they fell vacant.
There were tow problems with this: first, independent analysis soon showed this would raise much less than the £4.5bn a year the party said it needed to pay for Right to Buy discounts, replacement “affordable” homes and a brownfield regeneration fund; second, Tory MPs woke up to the fact that many of the most valuable homes were concentrated in their seats.
The Government introduced an amendment in the Lords changing “high value” to “higher value” after recognising that areas facing the highest housing pressure, such as inner London, Oxford, Cambridge and Harrogate, would have to sell a high proportion of their vacant homes. True to form, no detail has yet been published on the impact of their change – Housing Minister “Bungalow” Brandon Lewis argues that his department has to examine “16m pieces of data” on council homes first.
Analysis by housing charity Shelter suggests what the impact might be if the Government wants to raise £4.5bn from an even split of council house sales from around the country. Councils with small numbers of “high value” homes [like Westminster] would have to sell fewer of them, while those with larger stocks [such as Birmingham, Leeds and Southwark] would have to sell and pay more.While this is not a point made by Shelter, there are no prizes for guessing which party runs which areas…