Right to Buy discounts causing housing ‘firesafe’

New analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) has revealed that nearly £3.5 billion in Right to Buy discounts have been handed out to council tenants over the past six years.

Warning that this has sparked a social housing ‘firesale’, the association is warning that the scheme is becoming unsustainable and risks becoming outdated unless councils are given the powers to set discounts locally and replace every home sold.

Since the government increased the size of discounts on 2012, the average discount has increased by 132 per cent to more than £60,000 in 2016/17, meaning properties are selling for almost half the price.

In 2011/12, the average discount for a council tenant purchasing under the scheme was £26,690, which represented approximately 25 per cent of average property value. This rose to £61,810, 43 per cent of property value, in 2016/17.

Judith Blake, LGA Housing spokesperson, said: “Councils support people’s aspiration to own their own home and Right to Buy is one way of doing this. However, selling council homes at a discount of nearly half price had led to a social housing fire sale that threatens the future of the scheme. The rate of homes sold under Right to Buy combined with the restrictions on councils is making replacing homes sold virtually impossible.

“This loss of social rented housing risks pushing more families into the private rented sector, driving up housing benefit spending and rents and exacerbating our homelessness crisis. This is particularly concerning as many of the homes sold through the scheme ended up being rented out privately at more expensive rates. For Right to Buy to work, councils must be able to replace every home sold. Councils must be allowed to set Right to Buy discounts locally, retain Right to Buy sale receipts in full to replace sold homes, and be given the freedom to borrow to build new affordable homes and play a lead role in tackling the country’s housing shortage.”

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