Massive sell-off of St Albans council properties predicted
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Nearly 3,000 council homes could be sold off in St Albans under the Government’s plans to extend its controversial Right to Buy scheme, a housing charity has warned.
Shelter has estimated that St Albans district council could be forced to sell up to nearly 60 per cent of this area’s council housing stock, which could equate to as many as 2,992 properties.
The homeless charity’s chief executive, Campbell Robb, warned: “At a time when millions of families are struggling to find somewhere affordable to live, plans to sell off large swathes of the genuinely affordable homes we have left is only going to make things worse.”
New research from Shelter has revealed that over 22,500 council homes in the East of England could face being sold on the private market.
Its statistics show that St Albans would be the most affected in this region, with 60 per cent of the council’s housing stock under threat because of the government’s sell-off plans. That figure surpasses Cambridge (46 per cent), Welwyn Hatfield (26 per cent) and Brentwood (42 per cent).
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The proposed scheme would see council homes worth more than a set regional threshold sold once they become vacant and the money used to fund discounts of up to £77,900 for housing association tenants taking advantage of the Right to Buy scheme, through a grant.
Estimates based on the East of England threshold show that one bedroom properties worth more than £155,000 to five-plus bedroom properties worth more than £635,000, could be sold off.
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But St Albans currently has an extensive waiting list of 1,016 families in need of social housing, with 126 families in temporary accommodation, including hotels and B&Bs.
Former St Albans MP and opposer of the Right to Buy scheme, Kerry Pollard, was shocked at the proposition of selling off the district’s social housing.
He said: “It’s disgraceful. The thought of selling off our own housing because it’s worth more than everywhere else is outrageous.
“Young people have no chance. I grew up in a council house and I’m very proud of that. Some people might not be able to have the opportunity I had because there simply isn’t the housing there.”
Council housing officers said they could not comment on the issue until the Housing Bill is published in October.
But portfolio holder for housing, Cllr Brian Ellis, said: “I think we would prefer than none of our housing stock is sold because we have such a shortage.”
Cllr Ellis said he believed the proposed selling of social housing in St Albans would end up helping to fund the Right to Buy in other districts which have already sold off theirs.
The council is looking at building low cost housing on its garage sites to deal with the shortage of social housing.
David Bogle, chief executive of Hightown, a charitable housing association, said: “We can understand the difficulties faced by our local authority partners if the Right to Buy scheme for Housing Association tenants is to be financed by the selling of higher value council properties.”