Sunday, 29 March 2015

Opposition parties fear Southwark homes sell off

Opposition parties in London’s largest stock-owning local authority have raised concerns about suggestions the council should sell off nearly half its homes.

An independent report commissioned by Southwark Council released on Tuesday said one of the ways for the council to improve the quality of its housing would be to reduce its stock from 39,000 to 20,000 homes over the next thirty years.

But the Southwark Green Party has called for the council to reject the idea of reducing its number of homes.

It pointed to a Freedom of Information Act request it got from the local authority in August, which showed the council sold 10 per cent of its stock through the right to buy in the past nine years.

The council had 46,055 homes on 1 April 2003 and sold 4,496 homes through the right to buy between 2003/04 and 2011/12.

Tom Chance, chair of Southwark Green Party, said: ‘Instead of demolishing 20,000 homes, the council needs to be making the case for building 20,000 more. This could clear the waiting lists and help people escape the overpriced and low quality private rented sector.

‘The council is in a very favourable position to borrow, compared to other councils, so it should use this to make Southwark a flag bearer for council housing, not a pallbearer at its funeral.’

The Southwark housing commission report, Investing in council housing: options for the future, suggests three options for the council: the reduction to 20,000 homes, a less severe reduction to 30,000 homes, or an investment programme to maintain existing stock and build 5,000 new homes.

It says the local authority’s existing stock is ‘of poor quality’ and ‘ageing fast’ and there are ‘no quick fixes’ to improving the homes. It warns ‘sustained levels of investment will be needed to bring and keep council housing up to acceptable standards’. 

The Liberal Democrats in Southwark suggested the report was ‘softening people up for a council home sell-off’. It questioned whether the £104,000 report was value for money.

Southwark Liberal Democrat spokesperson Tim McNally said: ‘Over £100,000 has been spent on this report, yet it doesn’t tell us a lot we don’t already know.

‘It looks like the main purpose of the report is softening people up for a council home sell-off. It suggests the amount of council housing in the borough could even halve.

‘Southwark Lib Dems continue to believe we should retain council homes across the borough and build more of them – particularly family sized properties.’

Leader of Southwark Council, Peter John, said: ‘The council is wholly committed to council housing provision. In line with this commitment, and demonstrating the importance we place on understanding the way forward, the council commissioned an independent report.’

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