Five hundred Southwark council homes a year could be sold off in “devastating” government plans to extend the Right to Buy policy.
New family-size council homes built in the north of the borough could also be forced on to the market before a single soul has lived in them, according to incensed council leader, Peter John.
David Cameron’s election promise to roll out the subsidised discount, which allows council tenants to buy their own homes, to housing association tenants, was formally announced in the Queen’s opening of parliament last week.
The extended Thatcher scheme would force local authorities like Southwark to sell off their more valuable council properties when they become vacant to pay for the discount – up to £103,000 per property in London – to help tenants purchase their homes at a reduced price.
The 16,000 housing association properties in Southwark would be at risk of being sold off under the scheme as would an estimated 500 existing higher value council properties every year.
Leader of the Council Peter John, said: “The impact of the Government’s Right to Buy proposals will be devastating for Southwark. It would be an utter disgrace for the 12,000 people on Southwark’s waiting list for the Government to force the sale of desperately needed council homes, as well as effectively stopping the council from building any new council homes in the north of the borough.”
Family-size homes in Borough, Bermondsey and Rotherhithe could easily fall within the price band set by the government for properties which would have to be sold to fund the scheme as soon as they are empty. As new-builds are technically empty when they are built, they could be sold off before anyone from Southwark’s waiting list gets near the front door.
“At a time when we’re facing a housing crisis across the capital, these preposterous plans could destroy council housing in London,” added Cllr John. “We will work with other London authorities to oppose these plans and determine what steps we can take to ensure we’re not forced to sell up to 30% of council homes in Southwark. We will also be seeking an exemption for new build homes so that we are not forced to sell the much needed council homes that are currently being built across the borough.”
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, defended the policy last week saying it addressed a “basic unfairness” in what was on offer to council and housing association tenants. “This is a policy which can be extremely effective and advantageous for London,” he told Mayor’s Question Time at City Hall on Wednesday. “This is a policy that can be made to work, it will be made to work but it will only work for London if it delivers more homes, more low cost homes….I certainly wouldn’t want to see councils in London deprived at a rapid rate of their housing stock which is one of their fundamental assets.”
The Mayor of London is now under pressure from London councils like Southwark to exempt the capital from the scheme but he reassured London Assembly members last week that the policy is still in “an early stage of elaboration. There is a way to go on this.”