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New home starts under Right to Buy scheme 'not enough to meet Government pledge'

Published 22/09/2016

New data shows the number of homes started or acquired by local authorities in England from April to June fell 41% on the previous quarter
New data shows the number of homes started or acquired by local authorities in England from April to June fell 41% on the previous quarter

The number of new homes begun under the Government's flagship Right to Buy scheme is lagging behind the amount needed to deliver its "one-for-one" promise, the latest figures suggest.

A fivefold increase is needed just to keep pace with homes sold in 2014/15, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

But new data from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) shows the number of homes started or acquired by local authorities in England from April to June fell 41% on the previous quarter.

Just 422 new homes were either begun or acquired, down from 715 in the previous quarter. There were 3,362 sales, however, up slightly from 3,276.

Around half of total first-quarter sales were made by 104 local authorities which recorded no starts at all, while just five authorities accounted for 41% of all starts or acquisitions between them.

Responding to the figures, Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell said the Government was "determined to replace the additional homes sold on a one-for-one basis, nationally".

In 2012 the coalition launched a "reinvigorated" Right to Buy with a promise to start replacing every additional home sold with another affordable property within three years.

However, the NAO has warned meeting the target of replacing homes sold in 2014/15 requires a "fivefold increase" on recent figures.

Earlier this month Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn challenged the Prime Minister over the pledge, saying only one in every five houses is replaced.

However, Theresa May said Mr Corbyn was "wrong" and claimed the commitment has been delivered.

The pledge is not intended to replace all sales, only additional ones. Those which would have sold regardless of the revamp - around 2,500 each year - are not covered.

The NAO said: "To meet the target of replacing the roughly 8,512 homes sold in 2014/15 by the end of 2017/18 would require quarterly housing starts to reach around 2,130, a fivefold increase on recent figures of approximately 420 per quarter.

"One-for-one replacement does not necessarily mean like-for-like: Replacement properties can be a different size, and built in a different area, compared to those that have been sold."

Mr Barwell said: "From London to Leeds, Right to Buy plays an important part in building a country that works for everyone, helping thousands of people become homeowners for the first time.

"And we're determined to replace the additional homes sold on a one-for-one basis, nationally - providing new affordable homes for rent for those who need them."

Maximum discounts currently stand at £103,900 in London and £77,900 in the rest of England.

The average receipt per dwelling sold in the first quarter of 2016/17 was £84,000, up from £80,000 in the same quarter of 2015/16.

The Government has said it wants to see one million homes built in England between 2015 and 2020.

A DCLG spokesman said: "There is a rolling three-year deadline for local authorities to replace homes sold under Right to Buy and so far they have delivered well within that.

"However, we've always been clear that if councils don't start building homes within the deadline, then we will step in and make sure they get built."

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