Right to Buy worsens housing crisis
Speaking at a London Keynote Seminar with the theme ‘Next steps for housing policy in London – supply, standards and affordability’ today, Toby Lloyd, head of policy at Shelter, was most vocal in his distaste for the Tory flagship policy, which he reckoned could destroy future generations’ hopes of getting on the housing ladder.
The government has pledged a one for one replacement of homes sold off from Right to Buy, but Lloyd reckoned this could result in expensive homes in London being sold off and ‘replaced’ by cheaper ones elsewhere in the UK.
Betsy Dillner, director of campaign group Generation Rent, agreed that Right to Buy is the last thing the UK needs to boost supply, while Kathleen Kelly, assistant director of policy and research at the National Housing Federation, questioned whether councils will be about to replenish housing stock with receipts from the scheme.
Stephen Howlett, chief executive of London housing association Peabody, said he didn’t like the policy even though he felt he had to sign up to the government’s voluntary Right to Buy deal.
Lloyd said: “We are destroying the future routes into homeownership as we speak.
“Social housing traditionally provided not a direct route to homeownership to Right to Buy, but an indirect route by giving people a secure period of low rent so they can save up to buy a home at some point in the future. “
He added: “How to increase supply in London? Firstly what you don’t do is decimate the existing stock of affordable housing. I can’t see for the life of me how that is going to improve anything for housing in the capital city, so firstly you must not allow the forced sale of council housing on the open market.
“Especially in London you know that that means; it means investors, it means private rental sector housing, usually they are being let back exactly to the people who are desperate for council housing at three times the rent and three times the benefit bill. This is just madness.
“The very first thing we need to ensure is that any council houses that are sold must be replaced like for like, it’s no good to say oh we will replace them with something else later completely different.
“You cannot sell a four bedroom family social rented house in Tower Hamlets and say it’s being replaced because you might build a one bedroom studio private flat in Hull 10 years later – that is simply not replacement, and that is literally what is being offered at the moment.
“We need a London ringfence otherwise this policy is designed to see a huge outflow from London to fund the Right to Buy elsewhere round the country.”
Lloyd concluded that far from flogging off the UK’s remaining supply the public sector needs to up the ante to boost housebuilding.
Howlett said he is “really worried” about Right to Buy, while he had “real issues” with the government’s Housing and Planning Bill currently going through the House of Commons.
He added: “The Mayor [of London] has four red lines. You’ve got to increase supply, must increase supply in London, mustn’t destroy communities, the money raised in London must be spent in London. Two to four will not be fulfilled by the bill so it will be interesting to see how the Mayor responds to the legislation as it goes through the House of Commons.
“Affordable housing does need public investment. I would very much like to see that come back.
“We believe that social housing is economically sensible in the long-term.”