WMN | Councillors call for right-to-buy scheme to be scrapped

c8a2f-13736-pnwmng

11 August 2016

Councillors call for right-to-buy scheme to be scrapped

By Kate LangstonPosted: August 11, 2016

(top right) Cllr Owen

Over the last three years, Devon and Cornwall councils have funded an average of just one new home for every four sold – despite a policy of one-for-one replacements.

Councillors claim this is because the scheme is unsustainable, and warn the problem will get worse if ministers plough ahead with plans to extend it.

Exeter City Council member and portfolio holder for housing, Keith Owen, accused the Government of failing to grasp “the seriousness of the situation”.

Cllr Keith Owen

“As a local housing authority, we are not in a position to replace anywhere near the number of council properties which are acquired by tenants under the right-to-buy scheme,” he said.

“And the situation in Exeter is generally no different than it is through the rest of the country.

“Its getting harder and harder to [replace homes], and its not going to be helped by recent Government legislation.

“The whole idea is badly thought through… I think it has to be scrapped.”

According to new figures from the Local Government Association, the rate at which councils in England replaced homes sold under right-to-buy (RTB) fell by more than a quarter last year.

Their data shows that while 12,246 council homes were sold to tenants in 2015/16, just 2,055 replacements were started by councils.

Government figures show that in Devon and Cornwall a total of 361 properties were sold under RTB between 2012/13 and 2015/16.

In that same three year period, councils only began the process of replacing 87 homes.

In the district of East Devon, the ratio of replacements to sales since 2012/13 has been 4.5 to one.

A spokesman for the council said it had been struggling to fund replacements “for a number of years”.

Right to buy figures for Devon and Cornwall (source: DCLG live sales tables)

“The receipt we receive from Right to Buy sales, after the statutory and significant discount is applied, is insufficient to purchase or build replacement units on a one for one basis,” he said.

“We have purchased and built some new homes over the past few years, but our ability… has been compromised by a recent Government requirement to reduce rents by 1% each year for the next four years.”

“This reduces our ability to finance new council homes as it eliminates any surpluses we have set aside for new affordable homes.”

Cllr Owen shares concerns about rent reductions, as and about plans to fund the extension of RTB to housing associations through the sale of council assets.

He said the forced sell-off of high-value social housing will see local authorities deprived of both the asset itself and income from rent.

“It’s a vicious circle,” he said. “Any money we’ve had in the past to build replacement council houses is not going to be there.

“There’s no sign the government understands the seriousness of the situation.”

A Government spokesman said there is a rolling three-year deadline for local authorities to deliver an additional 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,” he added.


What is right-to-buy?

Right-to-buy was introduced in 1980 under Margaret Thatcher’s government, as a means of boosting home ownership

It gives most council tenants the right to purchase their home from their landlord at a discount of up to 35% for a house, and 50% for a flat

Tenants can apply to buy if the property is their only or main home and self-contained, and they have had a public sector landlord for three years

If the property used to belong to the council, but has since been sold off, a tenant might still qualify for “preserved” right to buy

The Government is looking to extend right-to-buy to housing association properties, starting with a voluntary pilot scheme, through the Housing and Planning Bill

LGA | Housing Commission launched

LGA_new_logo

02 December 2015

Housing commission launched to investigate new routes to housebuilding

The Local Government Association is today launching a Housing Commission to explore new routes to housebuilding so councils can enable the building of more desperately-needed homes.

Councils built nine times more homes between 2010 and 2015 than between 2000 and 2005 and are desperate to dramatically increase the availability of new homes in their local areas.

The LGA said this is vital to building the 230,000 new homes the country needs each year as private developers have not built more than 150,000 homes a year for more than three decades.

The Housing Commission will also explore the importance of effective housing in boosting jobs and growth, helping meeting needs of an ageing population, saving social care and the NHS money, and helping people into work. It will focus on four themes:

  • Housebuilding – new ways that councils can enable investment in new homes;
  • Place making, community and infrastructure – the role of councils in shaping homes within prosperous places and communities;
  • Employment, welfare reform and social mobility – the role of housing in supporting tenants to find and progress in sustained employment;
  • Health and quality of life for an ageing population – the role of housing in adapting to an ageing population and preventing onward costs onto social care and health services.

Evidence is sought on the key issues for communities, partners and councils, on good practice that has successfully addressed those issues, and what is needed to build on those successes. Councils, partners, organisations and individuals to contribute their issues, evidence, and examples of effective housing and ideas to the Commission’s Advisory Panel, made up of experts and academics.

The Commission will take a medium-term view incorporating current housing reforms but will look beyond them in making the case for councils to be able to deliver the homes our communities and places need. Findings will be brought together in a report in Spring 2016 and presented at the LGA Annual Conference in June 2016.

Cllr Peter Box, LGA Housing Spokesman, said:

“We’re working with government to ensure housing and planning reforms support council efforts to build more homes and the Housing Commission we are launching today will investigate how the Government and councils can help deliver houses to solve our housing shortage.

“Councils must be able to play a lead role in building the homes we desperately need, and building the homes in a way that create prosperous places and growth, help people into work and positively adapt to an ageing population.

“This is the best way to meet local and central government ambitions for our communities, to reduce waiting lists and housing benefit, keep rents low and help more people live long and happy lives.”

Notes

The Housing Commission is led by Town Hall leaders on the LGA Housing Board supported by an expert Advisory Panel including:

  • Catherine Hand, Partner, Trowers and Hamlins
  • Chris Wood, Partner, Altair
  • Dave Simmonds OBE, Chief Executive, Inclusion
  • Professor Jo Richardson, De Montfort University, Director, Centre for Comparative Housing Research
  • Neil Revely, Chair of ADASS Housing Network
  • Sue Adams OBE, Chief Executive of Care and Repair England
  • Will Colthorpe, Argent LLP, Chair of British Property Federation Development Committee

We welcome all contributions before the 26 February 2016. Please send submissions of no more than 3,000 words to LGAhousingcommission@local.gov.uk.