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Right to Buy replacements falling in England, warn councils

Words: Laura Edgar

The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that the number of homes sold under Right to Buy that local authorities have been able to replace fell by more than a quarter in England last year.

It said that councils only keep one-third of all receipts from homes that are sold under the scheme, with “further complex rules and restrictions” meaning they are struggling to rapidly replenish the stock.

The LGA said the current Right to Buy scheme needs “urgent reform” to ensure that councils are able to replace homes that are sold quickly and effectively.

Additionally, discounts should be set locally to reflect local house prices.

According to the latest figures, 12,246 council homes were sold under Right to Buy to tenants in England in 2015/16, but councils started only 2,055 replacements.

The LGA forecasts that 66,000 council homes will be sold under the current scheme by 2020 and fears councils will not be able to replace them – exacerbating the housing crisis.

Council leaders are calling on the government to make the forced sale of high-value council homes voluntary and allow local authorities to keep 100 per cent of the receipts so that they can build new ones.

Nick Forbes, senior vice-chair, LGA, said current Right to Buy arrangements restrict councils from being able to replace homes sold under the scheme.

"Housing reforms that reduce rents and force councils to sell homes will make building new properties and replacing those sold even more difficult. Such a loss in social housing risks pushing more people into the more expensive private rented sector, increasing homelessness and housing benefit spending,” he said.

Although Scotland has scrapped the policy and Wales is looking to do the same, Forbes said councils in England believe the Right to Buy scheme could be made to work “if they are able to build the replacements that protect essential local housing, and ensure future generations can also benefit from the scheme”.

“If we are to stand a real chance of solving our housing crisis, councils need the funding and powers to replace any homes sold under Right to Buy quickly and reinvest in building more of the genuinely affordable homes our communities desperately need,” Forbes concluded.

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