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One in 14 council homes could be sold to fund Right to Buy scheme, warns Shelter

Published 17/09/2015

The extension of Right to Buy to housing association tenants was a key commitment in the Conservative's election manifesto
The extension of Right to Buy to housing association tenants was a key commitment in the Conservative's election manifesto

Nearly 113,000 council homes could be sold off across England onto the private market to help finance the Government's controversial plans to extend the Right to Buy scheme, according to analysis from Shelter.

The charity, which has delved into the potential implications of plans to sell off council homes to fund the Right to Buy extension to housing association tenants, calculated that 112,883 or around one in 14 (6.8%) council homes in England could face a forced sale once they became vacant.

In Kensington and Chelsea, 97% of the current council housing stock could eventually be sold when it becomes vacant, the charity claimed, while nearly half the council housing stock in Cambridge could be sold off, as could nearly a fifth of that in York.

Shelter estimated that the London Borough of Camden would also be among the most affected, with more than 11,700 homes eventually facing a forced sale - equating to almost half of the total council housing stock there.

The extension of Right to Buy to housing association tenants was a key commitment in the Conservative's election manifesto.

Under the plans, the Right to Buy will be extended to England's 1.3 million housing association tenants, giving them the same opportunities as council housing tenants to buy their homes at a discount.

Ministers have said housing associations will be compensated with money raised by forcing local authorities to sell off their most expensive housing stock as it becomes vacant, ensuring that the affordable properties which are sold are replaced.

But the proposals have been widely criticised by housing associations and critics have questioned whether homes which are sold off will actually be replaced.

Shelter also estimates that even if the homes are sold, there could still be a funding shortfall of around £2.45 billion over four years.

Campbell Robb, Shelter's chief executive, said that selling off "large swathes of the few genuinely affordable homes we have left" would make the country's housing situation worse.

He said: "More and more families with barely a hope of ever affording a home of their own and who no longer have the option of social housing, will be forced into unstable and expensive private renting.

"The Government needs to scrap this proposal and start helping the millions of ordinary families struggling with sky high housing costs."

Shelter used Government house price data as well as lettings figures to make its estimates.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "More council housing has been built since 2010 than in the previous 13 years.

"Councils should make the best use of their assets and manage their housing stock as efficiently as possible. So it is right that as high value council homes become empty they should be sold to fund new affordable housebuilding in the same area.

"Our plans will also extend Right to Buy to more than a million housing association tenants, with every home sold replaced on a one-for-one basis. Details will be confirmed in the Housing Bill."

Peter Box, housing spokesman for the Local Government Association (LGA) said the Government must work with councils to make sure its policies " do not limit the capacity for councils to enable the housebuilding that we desperately need".

He said: "Measures to encourage the sale of high value council homes must support this ambition and must enable investment in affordable housing that will generate growth and reduce the housing benefit bill.

"Any national measures to encourage the sale of high value council homes should be pursued separately to the extension of Right to Buy and should enable councils to retain 100% of receipts to reinvest in building new homes."

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