Vacant council homes won’t be sold off here

Council leader Gary Porter.
Council leader Gary Porter.

Tory plans to force local authorities to sell off vacant council homes will not impact on South Holland, according to council leader Gary Porter.

He says the district doesn’t have the “massively expensive council houses” targeted by the policy in the Conservative manifesto.

At a time when more and more people are struggling to find an affordable place to live, the next government’s priority has to be building more affordable homes, not selling off the few we have left.

Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb

Coun Porter explained: “Some of the (council) flats in London are a million quid and the argument is, once the people who are in them move out, instead of putting new council tenants in, you flog those – you first build a new one to replace the one you have just sold and use the other money to top up the RSLs (registered social landlords).”

The Conservatives plan to extend the right to buy to housing association tenants, which come under the banner of registered social landlords.

But, again, Coun Porter believes there will be minimal impact in South Holland with so few housing association properties – perhaps around 600 – and probably around only 150 of the tenants able to afford to buy the properties.

Housing charity Shelter helps millions of people who are struggling with bad housing and homelessness and it has criticised the plan to sell off housing association properties because it believes it will lead to a shortage of affordable homes.

Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb said: “This would be yet another nail in the coffin for affordable housing. We have already seen an outright failure to replace like for like the homes sold under right to buy, with only one affordable new home built for every ten sold.

“Extending the scheme to housing associations may benefit a lucky few, but does little to help the millions of private renters struggling to cope with sky high housing costs and instability. And, with the current track record, will mean there are even fewer affordable homes left for future generations.

“At a time when more and more people are struggling to find an affordable place to live, the next government’s priority has to be building more affordable homes, not selling off the few we have left.”

The BBC reported that extending the right to buy to housing association tenants “would be funded by new rules forcing councils to sell properties ranked in the most expensive third of their type in the local area, once they become vacant, with every house purchased replaced on a one-for-one basis”.

Coun Porter said existing council tenants still have the right to buy and described it as a good thing because it enables people to get on the housing ladder and gives benefits like access to capital to start small businesses.