Call for new powers as Government’s Right to Buy scheme risks diminishing Tower Hamlet’s council housing stock

  • Right to Buy (RtB) is depleting London’s social housing stock as report finds councils set to sell more than they build
  • Across London, councils predict they will lose 1.5 council homes for every 1 they build
  • Call for Government to give Councils necessary powers and finance to build new social homes

John Biggs AM has urged the Government give councils new powers to invest in housing after a new report found that over the next decade 1.5 council homes are set to be sold in London through Right to Buy for every new one built.

The report, from London Assembly Labour Housing Spokesperson Tom Copley AM, draws on new data provided by London boroughs, including Tower Hamlets. The report estimates that based on current development plans around 10,300 council homes will be completed over the decade to 2023/24, compared to an estimated 16,100 Right to Buy sales.

The data provided shows that inner-London boroughs, such as Tower Hamlets, can on average expect 1.2 council homes to be sold for every new home that is built. The erosion of the council housing stock is expected to be particularly stark across outer-London boroughs, with forecasts showing that two homes will be sold for every new home that is completed.]

The report also found that only 43% of the money raised from RtB sales is expected to be spent on building new homes, while 30% will go to central Government, and the remainder being used to cover administrative costs. This means that many councils will be forced to find money from elsewhere to reinvest in new homes despite rapidly diminishing budgets and central government imposed restrictions on their ability to invest in housing. 

John Biggs, also highlighted Mr Copley’s ‘From Right to Buy to Buy to Let’ report, published in January 2014, which found that over 50% of Tower Hamlet’s former council homes that were sold through Right to Buy are now let by private landlords. Across London, at least 36% are estimated to have ended up in the private rented sector.

Mr Biggs said estimates that 6,000 fewer council homes will be built over the decade to 2023/24 highlights the need for councils like Tower Hamlets to be given more powers to finance new social house building.  John Biggs AM has supported calls for councils to retain all money raised from RtB sales to be reinvested in new homes as well as for the council housing borrowing caps to be lifted to maximise the finance available to councils for house building.

Labour London Assembly Member John Biggs said:

“The Government’s reinvigorated Right to Buy scheme is leading to a devastating scale of reduction in council housing stock, making it harder for Tower Hamlet’s families to access affordable housing. Whilst the Government has made it easier for people to buy their council homes, they have completely failed to give councils the power and money to replace those which are sold.

“With London’s population now at a record high of 8.6m there is unprecedented demand for housing. But with Right to Buy sales set to outstrip new builds over the coming decade, Londoners will see the amount of social housing continue to drop. The Government must take urgent action to prevent social housing stocks from plummeting in areas like Tower Hamlets and this means giving councils more powers to invest in new council homes. Without these powers there is little individual councils can do.

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