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Housing

Sadiq Khan’s Right to Buy-back scheme leads to return of 1,500 council homes

Fourteen London councils have been given £152 million to purchase 1,577 homes that have been or will be converted to social rent or to house homeless families.

Sadiq Khan’s Right to Buy-back scheme has resulted in more than 1,500 of London’s homes being brought back into public ownership in a year.

The mayor of London said he was “hugely encouraged” by the “enthusiasm” he saw from councils for using his flagship scheme to buy back homes and build new ones.

Khan launched Right to Buy-back in July last year to boost London’s supply of council homes. It gives boroughs the funds to purchase former council homes that have been sold into the private market through the government’s Right to Buy programme.

Since then 14 London boroughs have been given £152 million to purchase 1,577 market homes that have been or will be converted to social rent or to house homeless families. A total of 1,756 council homes in London were sold through Right to Buy in 2021.

According to the New Economics Foundation, the scheme has led to an average net loss of 24,000 social homes a year since 1991.

The mayor’s office says it has already exceeded his previous target of starting 10,000 new council homes this year. Khan now aims to start a further 10,000 homes in a significantly shorter time – a total of 20,000 new council homes by 2024.

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Khan said he would make £1million in funding available to help boost uptake of the programme and a further £4m fund to help boroughs unlock land for council homes. The mayor will publish allocations for this revenue programme shortly, but confirmed that eight London boroughs have been successful in securing funding.

Khan says the Right to Buy-back programme has been key for helping increase the supply of council housing across London. He said:“For more than 40 years, London’s precious council homes have been disappearing into the private sector, often never to be replaced. As mayor I have maintained a relentless focus on stemming the tide and replenishing London’s social housing stock.

“I am proud that, thanks to my interventions, we have brought council homebuilding back up to levels not seen since the 1970s and I’m hugely encouraged by the enthusiasm I see from boroughs across London for building new council homes and using my Right to Buy-back scheme to return homes to public ownership.

“Returning these homes to public ownership is a key part of my plan to build a better London for everyone – a city that is greener, fairer and more prosperous for all.”

Right to Buy is responsible for the decimation of council housing across the UK. In London,14,000 council homes have been funded with Right to Buy receipts in the last decade, while 23,000 homes were sold over the same period.

Boris Johnson announced the government would expand Right to Buy in June so that housing association tenants could buy their homes at a discounted cost and people on housing benefits payments could put these towards buying a home. Housing charities criticised the move as “a dangerous gimmick”.

Others have criticised the scheme’s failure to boost home ownership. The government’s own figures last month showed that fewer than half of the homes sold off through Right to Buy in England last year have been replaced.

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