24 October 2008
By Neil Merrick
A third of the £200m set aside by the government to buy unwanted private homes has been allocated to housing associations in just three months.
Since July, more than 2,000 homes built by developers before the mortgage crisis have been snapped up by associations using £70m of public funds, it was announced this week.
In the largest deal, confirmed on October 20, Sanctuary Housing Group will buy 335 homes from Bloor Homes, one of the UK's largest privately owned house builders. Sanctuary is receiving £13m from the Housing Corporation towards the cost of the homes and is thought to be paying as much again from its own budgets.
The government programme was launched in July as part of a housing rescue package.
Ministers subsequently announced that the sum was not capped and more money would be available through the National Affordable Housing Programme, which is usually used to fund new homes.
This week, the Department for Communities and Local Government said 'many more deals' were in the pipeline. These include plans by Bloor to sell a further 700 homes. Agreements covering more than 250 properties must go through a special clearing house set up by the corporation, but the majority of homes are being bought in far smaller numbers.
Margaret Beckett, making her first speech as housing minister on October 15, told the Home Builders' Federation that money was available to buy 'the right properties at the right price'. She said: 'It makes good business sense for both of us.
'We get more social housing at a time when waiting lists are increasing around the country and you are able to increase turnover.'
Figures published by the London Housing Federation on October 23 showed that more than 15,000 families were accepted as homeless in the capital last year, whereas just 11,500 homes were built by councils and registered social landlords.
Most of the homes sold to Sanctuary are in the Midlands, with a few in the North of England. The majority are designated for social renting, with 20% set aside for shared ownership.