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London Right to Buy extension could be detrimental to mixed communities

There are “serious concerns” that the sale of additional affordable social housing stock in London, both housing association and local authority, could result in “considerable detriment” to the capital’s mixed and balanced communities. 

This was one of the issues for consideration raised in a background paper for the London Assembly’s Housing Committee, which is meeting today to discuss the extension of the Right to Buy to housing associations in London. 

Following a manifesto commitment, proposals were included in the 2015 Queen’s Speech for a Housing Bill to extend the Right to Buy to housing association tenants. 

The policy seeks to increase home ownership, which remains a majority aspiration in London, as elsewhere in the country. It would be funded by a requirement placed upon local authorities to sell off their most expensive council homes as they fall vacant. 

However, the plans have come under fire from across the housing sector. And even Lord Kerslake, the former permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), has publicly criticised the plans

Committee members were told that while there is widespread consensus that boosting housing supply is a “key priority”, many note that the Right to Buy has resulted so far in a very “substantial loss” of publicly-owned (affordable) housing stock, while failing to increase overall housing delivery. 

Additionally, the enforced sale of London’s high-value council homes could have substantial impacts upon the financial position of inner London boroughs, some of whom may be forced to sell significant proportions of their housing stock and forfeit the associated income streams which bolster their Housing Revenue Account. There could also be an impact on the amount of time Londoners are on the waiting list for council homes. 

A number of guests have been invited to discuss the proposals with Committee members, including: 

  • Richard Blakeway, Deputy Mayor for Housing, Land and Property;
  • James Clark, Housing Policy Manager, Housing and Land, Greater London Authority;
  • Lord Bob Kerslake, Chair, Peabody
  • Cllr Philip Glanville, Cabinet Member for Housing, London Borough of Hackney;
  • Cllr James Murray, Executive Member for Housing and Development, London Borough of Islington;
  • Laura Johnson, Director of Housing, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and Chair of Directors of Housing, London Councils;
  • Jim Ripley, Chair, Phoenix Housing; and
  • John Bibby, Policy Officer, Shelter. 

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