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Sell off expensive council homes to fund building, urges think tank

An influential policy think tank has urged the sale of council homes in wealthy areas in order to fund the building of new housing elsewhere.

The Ending Expensive Social Tenancies report, released today by Policy Exchange, calls on councils to sell the expensive homes when they become vacant, in a move it estimates could fund 80,000 to 170,000 new social starts.

The think tank estimates that in the South-east, almost 100,000 units of social housing are valued above the average private price.

And it calculates that £4.5bn could be raised each year, creating up to 340,000 construction jobs.

Housing minister Grant Shapps called the move “blindingly obvious”.

Construction union UCATT slammed the proposals, saying they would lead to “ghettoization”.

Steve Murphy, the union’s general secretary, called the plans “truly frightening”, and said they “will not work”.

He added: “We should be increasingm ixed deevlopments, in order to break down social segregation, not reducing them. The housing crisis is only going to be solved by significant investment in social house building.”

UCATT has been campaigning against government cuts to social housing budgets.

Gavin Smart, director of policy and practice at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “Policy Exchange has rightly highlighted that social landlords must make the best possible use of their properties to deliver social objectives. However, the report oversimplifies the challenges landlords face in managing their homes. A mandatory system of property disposals does not allow space for the flexibility that housing practitioners need if they are to manage their housing stock effectively.”

“These proposals also risk blaming social tenants for the consequences of the last property bubble – Policy Exchange is suggesting that selling these houses and moving social tenants to areas of less expensive housing would open up the homeownership market – but we cannot blame social tenants for a housing market they did not create.”

Labour shadow immigration secretary, meanwhile, Tweeted that the move was “ghetto social housing policy”.

Shadow housing minister Jack Dromey said: “With house building collapsing under this out of touch Government, this report rightly highlights the need to build many more homes. But proposals to sell off homes let at affordable rents to hard working families are not the answer.”

“Councils and housing associations should make effective use of their housing stock but the Government should not force them to arbitrarily sell-off social homes, breaking-up mixed communities and driving out hard-working families on low wages from whole neighbourhoods.” 

 

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