Figures reveal that Greenwich borough’s social housing stock was reduced by 140 from July to September 2018 – which is the exact same number of council homes built since 2011.
Right to Buy purchases in Q2 jumped to 140 from 48 in Q1 meaning in just half a year the total stock lost exceeded all homes built over the previous seven years.
The loss of council homes has been at huge cost to taxpayers and tenants as ever more people are forced into private rentals or temporary accommodation. The housing benefit (or Local Housing Allowance) bill is now £25 billion a year. Housing policy is costing almost everyone dearly.
Homeless households increased from 740 to 909 over the same period.
Many former council homes bought under Right to Buy are now buy-to-let private flats at double or triple rent levels.
Right to Buy
Right to Buy was introduced under Thatcher’s government in the 1980s. Under New Labour it was restricted but not abolished and has since been expanded under the coalition in 2011 with greater discounts and easier eligibility reducing the number of council homes ever more. It’s since been banned in Wales and Scotland.
Though Right to Buy is now a very flawed national policy without large injections of funds for social homes alongside, in Greenwich borough right to buy income has not always been wisely spent.
The target of like-for-like replacement from central Government was always very unlikely to be met but Greenwich have still chosen the least efficient method of adding stock according to their own analysis.
Authorities have three years to spend or income is sent to central Government. As the new policy started in 2011/12, by 2016/17 the five years was coming up yet a lack of foresight meant Greenwich still had much unspent. They opted to buy homes off the market at high cost (average £400k per extra unit) rather than partner with a Housing Association or use their own off-shoot developer Meridian Homes.
Central Government does not make it easy as simply building outright using right-to-buy funds is banned. Only 30% of any scheme can use Right to Buy income. But could 30% have gone to Meridian Home Start schemes and 70% funded by other sources? It would have provided far more units to combat homelessness and saved taxpayers through lower Housing Benefit payments to private landlords.