London councils will struggle to build replacement homes if there is a mass sale of housing association properties under the government’s extended right to buy policy, according to a report.
The extension of the right to buy to housing association tenants was confirmed when the government unveiled its Housing Bill as part of yesterday’s Queen’s Speech.
In what became a key election pledge from the Conservative Party, the extension of right to buy discounts would be paid for through the enforced sale of “high-value vacant council houses”.
However, a report from four London councils said they were unsure of how replacement homes would be funded or where they would be built.
The report compiled jointly by Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Islington councils said as many as 3,500 council homes would have to be sold across the four local authorities to fund the policy.
Councillors also pointed to a potential two-year lag between homes being sold and replacements becoming available.
Haringey Council leader Claire Kober said: “This counterproductive policy would choke the supply of new homes across London at the very time our city is battling a chronic housing shortage.
“Forcing councils and housing associations to sell off the few affordable homes that remain in areas where prices are skyrocketing will only serve to exacerbate – not resolve – the housing crisis.
“The government’s tight restrictions on reinvesting money from sales under the current right to buy scheme mean only one house has been built for every 10 sold, so it’s unfeasible that extending the same policy will lead to a sudden rise in housebuilding.
“The research shows that, far from helping families onto the housing ladder, this policy would leave the simple right to an affordable home further out of reach for many in London.”
In a briefing document on the Queen’s Speech, also published yesterday, the government stopped short of claiming that the sale of council homes would fund like-for-like replacements.
Instead, the sales “would help fund… the building of more affordable homes in the area”.
The policy has already been heavily criticised by prominent voices in the housing association sector.
Chartered Institute of Housing deputy chief executive Gavin Smart argued that the extension of right to buy could potentially “make things worse”.
“It would have a huge impact both on housing associations and on local authorities, as councils would have to sell off their most valuable homes to fund replacements,” he said.