Council homes sold under Right To Buy are not being replaced

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Swindon Tenants Campaign Group media release

April 11th 2018

Council homes sold under Right To Buy are not being replaced

In March of last year, Gavin Barwell, then the Conservative Housing Minister said that RTB only has any “political justification” if homes sold are replaced by new homes built. However, he did nothing to remedy the fact that they are not being replaced. Now the housing industry publication Inside Housing has examined government statistics in relation to RTB sales and replacement homes. They found that only around a quarter of homes sold under RTB are being replaced. The magazine has a list of RTB sales and replacements in local authority areas.

In the case of Swindon the figures show that 333 homes have been sold since 2010 but only 72 replacements have been built or bought using RTB receipts. (The council is buying ex-council homes which were sold off on the cheap but paying market prices.) Read on below or download a PDF here rtbreplacements More

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Unaffordable rent

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This is a letter to the Swindon Advertiser

The number of council homes available in Swindon today is around 200 less than in 2011. This is bad enough but now the ruling administration is proposing a policy which will increase the number of unaffordable homes to rent. As part of their ‘regeneration’ of Queen’s Drive they are proposing to cut the number of council homes which charge a council rent (or ‘social rent’ as it is called in the jargon) and charge instead so-called ‘affordable rent’. This can be up to 80% of the market rent.

This would mean that some council tenants would have to pay up to twice the rent that other council tenants pay in a similar property with the same number of bedrooms. Probably the only people who will be able to afford such rents are those who qualify for full housing benefit. However, even they could come unstuck when they have to go over onto Universal Credit. When they do, they will be thrown into arrears as a result of their housing benefit being stopped, whilst their UC claim is being processed. We already know that 75% of tenants on UC have rent arrears compared to 25% of tenants overall. Arrears for ‘affordable rent’ will be considerably higher than ‘social rent’. More

Leicester Labour Housing Conference

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I was invited to speak at a Labour housing conference in Leicester last weekend. I began my contribution by asking the seventy-odd people present to raise their hands if they believed that Labour’s first housing priority should be a large scale council house building programme. A forest of hands were raised. I could only see one person whose hand remained down. There might possibly have been a couple more who I couldn’t see. However, overwhelmingly this collection of Labour Party members wants a Labour government to carry out a large scale council housing programme.

Unfortunately I had to tell them that Labour’s Mini-Housing Manifesto, Labour’s New Deal for Housing, said that Labour’s first housing priority was to help young people on “low to medium incomes” onto the housing ladder. According to the document income of £100,000 a year is considered a medium income! This appeared to come as a surprise to most people, most of whom were not aware that there was a Mini-Housing Manifesto. More

Queens Drive regeneration: Swindon Council’s unaffordable housing strategy

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Swindon’s housing crisis has been described as a crisis of affordability. Much of the town’s housing in unaffordable for a large proportion of the population. At a time when the value of earnings has declined many people struggle to pay their rent month to month. (See Swindon – the real picture, Part One 1) The recent Centre for Cities report highlighted an increase in the ratio between house prices and earnings. It said that the average house price in Swindon is more than eight times average earnings making mortgages impossible for a large number of people. We have recently shown that rents in the private sector continue to rise way above earnings (see Crisis of Housing Affordability 2).

Council rents are much lower than rents in the private sector. Even the cheapest, lower quartile private rents, are, depending on the number of bedrooms, from 34% to 98% higher than council rents (See Table 4) and median rents are higher still. Unfortunately as the town increases in size the number of council homes has declined. There are more than 200 less than in 2011, so very few people have a chance of getting a council tenancy. Read on below or download a PDF here  unaffordablehousing More

Housing crisis – planning is not the key problem

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The Conservative government is now threatening supposedly ‘nimby’ local authorities with central government action if they don’t “build enough homes in their area”. Failure to meet the targets will, apparently, mean that councils will lose control of the right to decide where new houses are placed in their area. This is patently absurd since councils cannot control the number of homes built in their area, especially when they are not building any themselves. The whip hand in relation to development lies with the developers and builders who control the pace of building when they have planning permission. There has been ample experience in Swindon of central government overturning rejection of planning applications on the grounds that the council is not achieving their house building target. Yet it is the developers/builders who are controlling the pace of construction essentially to maximise their profits. Read on below or download a PDF here plannignetc More

End Right to Buy

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Harry Stannard reports on a debate on RTB in a Leicester Labour Party

At its February meeting the Westcotes Branch  of Leicester West Constituency Labour Party (CLP) passed a resolution calling on the National Executive Committee (NEC) / National Policy Forum to include the following statement in the next manifesto: “The right to buy Council Houses as currently practised will be removed”.

The discussion was lengthy and animated, as you would expect about a move that would ask the Labour Party to abandon a policy that led to the sale of almost half a million council homes during the Blair/Brown years alone. If adopted by the NPF this would overturn the current Labour shadow cabinet’s policy, which is to ‘suspend’ RTB for an unstated period. Perhaps this is why an amendment at the Westcotes meeting to add the word ‘temporarily’ attracted little support. In practice, that is what the shadow cabinet’s stance amounts to. It is clear, however, that a suspension of sales, temporary or otherwise, serves merely to put off creating a clear policy stance designed to meet the growing unmet need for housing in the UK. Members of our branch felt that the offer in our 2017 general election Manifesto – to build more houses ‘for sale or rent’ – is far from sufficient. More

“Affordable rent” in England

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So-called “affordable rent” (AR) was introduced by the coalition government as a means of funding house building by councils and housing associations when it cut grant for ‘social housing’ by 60%. AR could be up to 80% of market rents. In applying for government grant from the Homes & Communities Agency councils had to agree that homes they built would charge AR rather than ‘social rent’ (SR). In addition they would have to convert some existing homes from SR to AR, when they became vacant. The extra rent would contribute to funding the building as the government cut its contribution.

To take the example of Swindon a building programme of 100 units involved the loss of 33 properties which charged SR (which were he cost of the loss of 175 SR homes. Read on below or download a PDF here arinengland . The tables are shown on the PDF More

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