Councils spend millions renting right to buy homes

27 Apr 18

Local authorities have spent millions on renting housing that they previously owned for temporary accommodation, research by a trade magazine has found.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed councils in England have been handing over money to private landlords to rent property previously sold under the right to buy scheme.

A total of £8.4m was spent annually by 23 councils to rent 725 flats as temporary accommodation, Inside Housing magazine has found.

FOI requests were sent to 100 stock-retaining councils in England and found that of the 23 that responded, those renting former right to buy properties were largely in London and the South East.

Melanie Rees, head of policy at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “Right to buy has played a significant part in the loss of our most affordable homes at a time we desperately need more, not less, of this crucial housing.

“The fact that councils are now having to collectively spend many millions to rent those same properties back for homeless households is extremely worrying and, quite frankly, absurd.”

CIH research has shown between 2012 and 2020 230,000 social rented homes were likely to have been lost as a result of right to buy and other factors.

Government figures from March 2018 showed that the amount of households in temporary accommodation rose for a 26th consecutive year and currently stands at 78,930.                             

The London Assembly’s data-sharing portal London Datastore showed private rents in London increased on average by 0.4% in the year to December 2017 compared to a 2.0% increase in the rest of England.

Rob Whiteman, chief executive of CIPFA, said: “Housing has been one of the single greatest policy failures of all governments over the past 30 years.

“Yet having a safe and secure home is a basic need that touches on all other areas of society, from public health to improving educational standards, from stable communities to economic growth.

“Going forward it is important that we correct this failure and look to restore the position of local authority housing as a positive tenure choice for those seeking accommodation.”

An MHCLG spokesman said: “Latest figures show councils have delivered 94% of the replacements required under right to buy.

“We need to build more homes and we are investing over £9bn in affordable homes and enabling councils to borrow an extra £1bn to build more social housing.”

Government figures from April to June 2017 show that the total amount of houses sold under right to buy stood at 2,601 from which councils received approximately £219.5m.

Under the Homelessness Reduction Act, announced earlier this month, councils were given new responsibilities to provide temporary housing for people threatened with homelessness.

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