Council homes sold through right to buy scheme in Harrogate are not being replaced

Fewer council homes in Harrogate were replaced than sold through the Government's Right to Buy scheme last year, figures show.

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 4:37 pm
Updated Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 4:38 pm

Housing charity Shelter said the programme has "torn a hole" in the national social housing supply and warned that recent policy changes are a step in the wrong direction.

Data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government reveals that 15 council homes were privatised through Right to Buy by Harrogate Borough Council last year – down from 23 in 2019.

Councils are expected to replace these homes on a one-for-one basis, but Harrogate Borough Council acquired or began construction on 11 replacements in 2020.

Council homes sold through right to buy scheme in Harrogate are not being replaced

Right to Buy was introduced in 1980 to help council and housing association tenants buy their home at a discount.

The maximum level of the discount was raised in 2012 and now stands at £84,600 outside London.

Across England, 94,000 homes have been sold through Right to Buy since then, with just 31,000 (33%) replacement houses acquired or started.

As of April 1, councils can use 40% of the receipts from properties sold to cover the cost of replacements.

However, they can now instead use the cash to fund schemes to help people buy houses – either through shared ownership or the discounted First Homes scheme for first-time buyers.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said the changes are "piecemeal" given the scale of the national housing crisis and that further reforms are needed if councils are to replace homes sold through Right to Buy.

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"However, the fact that we are not replacing the homes that are being sold was an issue prior to the pandemic and will persist long after it unless we act urgently."

The Government also extended the time councils have to spend Right to Buy receipts from three to five years – which the JRF said was a positive move.

Harrogate Borough Council collected £1.6 million through the scheme last year, contributing to £13.8 million raised since 2012.

Shelter said the pandemic has exacerbated the housing crisis, and there could not be a worse time to endanger the supply of affordable social homes.

"As we look towards our post-pandemic recovery, the Government must build the new generation of social homes that people and families desperately need.”

An MHCLG spokeswoman said Right to Buy has helped nearly 2 million council tenants become homeowners, and the Government is investing over £12 billion in affordable housing over five years.

She added: “We’ve made it easier for councils to fund new homes to replace the ones they’ve sold as well as giving them greater flexibility over the types of homes they provide to reflect the needs of their communities."