London councillors demand inquiry into right to buy sales
Labour councillors in Westminster have called for an ‘urgent investigation’ into reports of property developers making millions by buying council homes under right to buy.
An investigation by the Sunday Times, published last Sunday, uncovered a property investor who was boasting about how much money he could make from buying properties from tenants and the reselling them at higher prices.
Nicholas Carlino, a director of London Investment Property Group, said to the newspaper that he would make so much money he will ‘never have to work again’.
Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour leader for Westminster, has written to the council’s chief executive, Charlie Parker, demanding an inquiry. Mr Dimoldenberg points out that almost 20% of right to buy sales since 2012 have been to those on housing benefit, and that it is possible ‘a huge fraud is taking place right under the council’s nose’.
Responding to the Sunday Times investigation, housing minister Brandon Lewis said: ‘The reinvigorated right to buy is both increasing housing supply and reducing waiting lists, as every additional home sold is now being replaced with a new affordable home for a new social tenant.
‘Critics of right to buy are enemies of home ownership and fail to appreciate the wider benefits of helping people to move on and up the housing ladder.’
There is no suggestion that the scheme is illegal.
Councillor Daniel Astaire, cabinet member for housing and regeneration at Westminster, said: ‘We fully support the principal aim of the right to buy scheme, which is to help more people onto the property ladder. If we have reason to believe attempts are being made to exploit the system and subvert that aim we will take thorough steps to thwart them. We would urge anybody considering taking part in such a scheme to check all the facts with their local council so they avoid any potential legal difficulties.’
UPDATE: A Westminster council spokesperson said that 20% figure stated by Mr Dimoldenberg was ‘incorrect.’ Since August 2012, according to Westminster council, 22% (20 units) of right to buy sales have been to people in receipt of housing benefit at the time of application, with 11% (10 units) of sales to people on housing benefit at completion.