Council boss calls for changes to ‘unfair’ Right to Buy housing rules

Council bosses in South Tyneside want changes to the Right to Buy system which has seen its housing stock drop by 40 per cent since Mrs Thatcher’s controversial policy was introduced.

Monday, 25th February 2019, 5:00 am
Updated Monday, 25th February 2019, 1:47 pm
South Tyneside has now sold off around 40 per cent of its housing stock

Coun Mark Walsh, South Tyneside’s lead member for housing and transport, said the council had sold off 14,062 homes since 1980.

He added: “That is around 40 per cent of our stock, but many have been poorly maintained or ended up at the bottom of the private rented market.

Coun Mark Walsh

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“While there is a need to provide affordable home ownership options, the current Right to Buy is not the best way of achieving this in South Tyneside.

“Without changes to an unfair Right to Buy system we will continue to come up with innovative ways of delivering the homes our residents need.”

Coun Walsh spoke out after new figures revealed that fewer council houses are being sold in South Tyneside.

The latest figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show that the local authority sold 146 council homes under the Right to Buy scheme between April 2017 and March 2018.

This was down from 150 in the previous year.

South Tyneside Council earned £5.97million from the sale of the properties.

Right to Buy was implemented by the Conservative government with the aim of helping council house tenants buy their rented homes.

Local Government Association housing spokeswoman, Judith Blake, said money spent on housing benefit should go towards building new homes to tackle the housing crisis.

She said: “The loss of social housing means that we are spending more and more on housing benefit to supplement expensive rents, instead of investing in genuinely affordable homes.

“The Government must go beyond the limited measures announced so far, scrap the housing borrowing cap, and enable all councils across the country to borrow to build once more.

“We have long called for reforms to Right to Buy, in order to allow councils to build more homes to set discounts locally, and to keep 100% of receipts from homes sold.”

Nationally, more than 27,000 tenants applied to buy a home from the social housing stock, which includes council and housing association properties.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Right to Buy has helped people who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford to buy. Sadly, we’re still building far fewer homes than we’re selling off.

“This has hugely reduced the amount of social housing available, and is nothing short of a disaster when hundreds of thousands of people are homeless and millions are struggling in deeply insecure and expensive private renting.”

Nationally, 12,865 council houses were purchased by tenants in 2017-18 – about 600 fewer than the previous year.