Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Boris Johnson told to call for suspension of right to buy in London

Boris Johnson has been told to lobby for a suspension of right to buy on new council homes in the capital in a London Assembly report released today.

The housing committee has called for councils to be given a ‘right not to sell’ where appropriate, and said the government should impose a moratorium on the sale of all new family-sized council homes in London.

Despite ‘firm opposition’ from Conservative members, the committee said the London mayor should take a stand over the ‘egregious consequences’ of the sale of council houses.

Tenants in the capital have been offered a £100,000 discount since March, reinvigorating the right to buy scheme.

But the report says councils are struggling to replace the homes, as it takes 1.6 right to buy sales to build one private home.

It also criticises the ‘absurd situation’ of councils having to rent back old stock from private landlords who ‘abused the system’ by buying the house and then letting it.

Councils are also afraid any new builds would quickly be sold off under the scheme.

The report, Right to build, also calls for council borrowing caps to be lifted and for the Mayor to assess the impact of the affordable rent regime.

Borrowing caps, imposed by the Treasury, to limit national debt, mean boroughs are torn between the need to invest in improving current housing standards and building housing suitable for low-income households, the report says.

New research conducted for the report suggests most London councils would like the caps lifted.

The report also says land owned by public bodies, including the GLA and NHS should be made available to boroughs at a rate that is viable for building new housing suitable for lower-income families. 

Darren Johnson, chair of the housing committee, said: ‘It is likely only half the number of homes will be built this year by councils than were sold last year via right to buy. Measures are needed now to give London councils the support needed to allow them the right to build.’

Readers' comments (10)

  • When will politicians realise that the RTB policy is biting on the bum? What madness is it that means that LAs are forced to sell decent homes, and then forced to pay to temporarily house homeless families in the same properties, at huge cost? I hope that the solution to simply abolish the homeless duty is not germinating in some fresher's policy mind at this very moment. The problem needs more thinking than currently being displayed.

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  • We have a terrible government.

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  • Just think - if this was done then local authorities could actually be in control of their own rent levels, use the income to invest in providing more homes, and ensure that the spread of 'Affordable' housing was not depleted by discounted sales.

    The alternative is to continue to pay 3-4 times the fair rent, subsidise this through Housing Benefit which we cannot afford, whilst still having to find the funds to discount further sales that do not generate enough to build new homes.

    Even if you just think of this in your own terms - should I (a) control my costs by owning the home; or (b) become a victim to the Market and rent the home. It is a tradeoff between the upfront costs of 'a' and the never ending paying out of 'b'. Option 'b' may be OK as a short term fix, but surely the majority aspire towards Option 'a'.

    Likewise then for those who work on our behalf, spending our money to meet our needs. Let the Councils build, own, and retain the homes we need so that they can be provided at a cost we can afford.

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  • Right to Buy is a disaster and its continuation will increase homelessness and make fewer homes genuinely affordable. The consequences are worst in London. Is there any serious chance that Boris Johnson will take a stand against Right to Buy in London?

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  • Outside Housing

    Everyone has said all there is to say about RTB. What interests me is the word Right.
    It's often said that no one has a right to social housing, which is of course true. However, people have a Right To Buy. This indicated the (sometimes desperate) need for housing is not as important as the need to own a property. How does that sound as a good philosophy for a "we're all in this together" sharing society?

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  • OH - add into that the recent effect of the welfare reforms that, rather than freeing up socially rented family homes for families are seeing families trapped in private sector temporary housing and B&B, at massive expense, whilst the 'freed-up' social homes are touted out on the open market to 'professional' people who cannot afford the private rents.

    So now the scarce social assets are up for the highest bidder, whilst the waiting lists provide fuel for the private sector 'margin' returns. Madness.

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  • Council homes sold off via RTB , have been released at a
    massive discount to the tenant/ and a collassal loss to
    the taxpayer.
    About 1.5 m homes have been sold ? x £10k each
    means about £15 billion in receipts .......where is this money now......
    social landlords have also recently been lumbered with
    about £25 billion of old debts.........which usually means
    hugh rent rises.

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  • Chris

    I wonder how many of the purchasers of scarce social assets sit on the thousands of pounds handed to them by the taxpayer in their nice cosy home moan of scroungers receiving handouts for their temporary home or hostel space.

    If right to buy was so correct then why has it never been extended to let leaseholders buy out their freeholder or for commuters to buy out their failing rail company. How about selling me Centrica because I've been a customer for more than five years, discounted of course. Come on Toryphiles, where is your consistency?

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  • Social housing should be means tested annually and RTB should be abolished across the UK, it is a socially useless policy.

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  • Social housing should be universal not means tested as this ensures communities with healthy mixed demographics instead of sink estates and ghettos of welfare housing. Right to Buy can still assist people who aspire to ownership, but in the form of transferable discount not privatisation of social assets. Ideally, estates of mixed tenure, as the more successful developments are, would mean such aspirational people need not even change neighbourhoods to cash in their taxpayer assistance.

    Seeing the bigger picture is far better than the sort of myopia that is condemning our society to create ghettos such as have not been seen in this country for over a century.

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