London councils ‘spending millions of pounds on renting back RTB homes’

21 Jan 19

London councils are spending more than £22m each year renting back homes sold under right to buy, research has found.

A London Assembly member has called on the government to scrap the controversial scheme after research showed the number of former right to buy homes in London now in the private rented sector grew by 11,825 in the last five years.

Freedom of Information data collected by Tom Copley, Labour London assembly member and housing spokesperson, showed that the number of right to buy homes in the capital’s private rented sector has now hit at least 54,000.

Councils are being forced to rent back properties formerly sold under the scheme to use as temporary accommodation to meet the needs of homeless families, the report said.

At least 2,333 right to buy homes are being rented by local authorities at a cost of at least £22,345,760 annually, according to the report.

Councils are also buying back homes sold under right to buy, and sometimes at as much as six times the cost for which they originally sold, the FOI research found.

Copley said: “The right to buy is failing London and should be abolished. Home ownership is still important for many people, but it can’t come at any cost, particularly if it means families struggling to put a roof over their heads or living in poor conditions. It’s not right that cash-strapped councils are having to fork-out eye-watering amounts renting back properties they were forced to sell at a discount.

“Many councils are building new council homes again for the first time in a generation. But we risk treading water or even going backwards if we continue to lose precious existing homes to right to buy.”

According to the 2017 London strategic housing market assessment, produced by the Greater London Authority, the capital needs 31,000 new low-cost rented homes every year, but just 8,000 homes of this kind have been built in the last five years.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the homeless charity Crisis, said: “What we need to see from the government going forward is the suspension of the right to buy, while they invest to build the 90,000 social homes needed in England each year to keep up with demand. In the long run, this investment will lead to significant savings for the taxpayer through reduced housing benefit costs.”

Lindsay Judge, senior policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation think-tank, said: “It’s likely too late for a ban on right to buy to have a significant impact on London, as the remaining social housing stock is largely concentrated among low-income households. But what these figures do show is the acute need to build more homes in the capital across a range of tenures, including social housing.”

Minister of state for housing Kit Malthouse MP said: “Under our right to buy scheme, over 100,000 social housing tenants have now got a foot on the property ladder since 2010, including more than 17,000 in London.

“This government is determined to make the dream of home ownership a reality for as many families as possible, and to deliver much needed homes in the capital.”

A recent study by an independent commission estimated that England needs up to 3.1 million new social homes to be built over the next 20 years.

Last week, the government announced the councils that would receive a share of a £50m fund to crack down on rogue landlords.

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