Council wants to keep 100 per cent of Right to Buy home sales

PUBLISHED: 15:47 06 March 2018

St Albans council.

St Albans council.

Archant

A motion supporting calls for the district council to keep all of the money from social housing sales has been approved.

The Labour motion called for SADC to be able to set discounts offered to council tenants who want to buy their home, keep all of the money from these Right to Buy sales and scrap the cap on the amount the council can borrow to invest in new and existing social homes.

Labour group leader Roma Mills said: “We need to be able to build council houses again if we are going to meet the needs of local people on low incomes.

“The Local Government Association has already faced up to this and has been lobbying government to allow councils to borrow to build and to keep 100 per cent of council house sales to invest in new local homes.”

Right to Buy was introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s government and at the time was taken up by around one in three eligible tenants.

Discounts for people who want to buy their council home are currently as high as £78,000, and Labour say the council’s housing stock has fallen to below 5,000.

Meanwhile, Labour say, 100 families are currently in temporary accommodation waiting for housing.

Nationally, Right to Buy sales increased from 5,944 in 2012-13 to 13,416 in 2016-17 due to the increased discounts offered to tenants, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

St Albans council’s portfolio holder for housing Brian Ellis said he would back the motion, but warned: “It will have little effect on the provision of social housing in this district.”

He said a £720,000 grant had been used to fund the building of social housing at Wavell House and the council would be bidding for money for the Mereden Court and King Offa developments.

Two things which would help, he said, were simplification of the rules around Right to Buy money and the ability to keep the money for more than three years without having to give them back to the government.

Welwyn Hatfield council had to give back £7m of the money from Right to Buy sales last year as they had not spent it in time.

Cllr Ellis added: “Our ability to finance our own developments depend on the total rent paid by tenants. Less rent equals less development.”

As the motion passed, the council will now write to the MPs for St Albans and Harpenden to ask them to lobby ministers on the issue.

St Albans MP Anne Main said: “For years this government has been moving powers closer to people, and it has realised high-value areas like St Albans need more flexibility. I never stop raising this point with ministers, whether it be on housing, pubs, or businesses.

“The Chancellor announced last year that councils like St Albans will soon be able to apply to lift the borrowing cap. This is to be welcomed and I would urge St Albans to apply if they feel it is necessary.

“It may be we need more flexibility towards Right To Buy in the future.

“With the Local Plan in motion, I will definitely be asking further questions of the government as I am keen to help ensure St Albans has all the tools it needs to plan for its future.”

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami added: “I’m in favour of local authorities having more freedom on how the Right to Buy receipts are spent locally, but let’s focus on the key issue - needing to get more social housing and affordable housing built.

“I’m happy to look at any way in which we can do that, and will be speaking to other MPs and ministers about it.”

To see the government figures on Right to Buy, visit www.gov.uk

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