Local authorities in London will be able to buy back former council homes using money provided by the government for Sadiq Khan’s affordable homes programme, it was confirmed today. The “Right to Buy-back” scheme enables bids for funds to purchase ex-council properties previously sold under the Right to Buy programme, introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative national government in the 1980s.
Right to Buy allowed council tenants of three or more years’ standing to buy their homes at below market rates, a policy the Mayor says led to council homes “disappearing into the private sector, often never to be replaced”. City Hall estimates that more than 300,000 council homes have been sold since the start of the policy and that 40 per cent of them are now owned by private landlords, many of whom are looking to sell.
Khan said: “We’re not only helping councils to build thousands of new council homes, we’re also giving them the resources to buy back former council homes. In the midst of a housing affordability crisis it feels grossly unfair and unjust that more than four in ten council homes sold through the Right to Buy in London are now in the hands of private landlords. These were, after all, homes built for the public good.” He added: “Fixing the housing crisis is going to take time, but this new Right to Buy-back scheme is an innovative new tool that will help to take another step in the right direction.”
The Mayor has been criticised by City Hall Conservatives who have said he is “miles behind” his target for new council house building, which included “more than 11,000” at rent “based on social rent levels” by the original deadline of 2022 when the funding allocations were made in October 2018. The deadline has since been extended to 2023 to allow for the impacts of Covid-19. Andrew Boff, the Tory group’s housing spokesperson, said: “Instead of buying back old council homes, the mayor should focus on building new homes. Sadiq Khan’s only completed 1,632 council homes since 2018. He should be using his enormous housing grant to build the homes London desperately needs, not a scheme which will deliver no new council homes.”
However, construction has begun on 8,376 new council homes following Khan’s allocation of £1 billion from a total of £4.82 billion in government funding provided in 2016 and 2017 . The prospectus for his Building Council Homes for Londoners programme was produced in May 2018. The new Right to Buy-back scheme means London boroughs will be able to bid for funding either to build new council homes or to bring existing properties into council ownership. Any purchased properties will count towards the Mayor’s 11,000 target.
The biggest beneficiaries of the scheme have been Barking & Dagenham and Newham, each of which received funding towards more than 1,000 new homes, followed by Hackney, Southwark, Croydon, Haringey and Brent, all of which intend to deliver over 800. Twenty-six of London’s 33 local authorities, including the City of London Corporation, received allocations. In November 2020, Khan received a further £4 billion from the government to help fund another five-year affordable homes programme, which is being used to prioritise accommodation for social rent.
Additional reporting by Dave Hill.
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