Right to Buy: Sadiq Khan says he ‘would suspend scheme’ in London if granted powers by government
Since Right to Buy was introduced, more than 300,000 London council homes have been sold, many of which have not been replaced.
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Introduced in the 1980 Housing Act under Margaret Thatcher, Right to Buy enables council tenants who have lived in their homes for at least three years to purchase the property at a huge discount from the local authority.
While the scheme has contributed to an increase in homeownership, the rate at which properties have been purchased has far outpaced that at which they are being replaced, resulting in major reductions to council housing stocks.
Some of those sold also end up either entering the private rental market or being leased back to the council at inflated prices, neither of which are consistent with the aim of providing more tenants with the opportunity to buy their home.
Since its introduction, more than 300,000 council houses in London have been sold off, according to City Hall data, which Mr Khan said has not come close to being replenished.
The mayor’s Right to Buy-back scheme has been one way in which he has attempted to redress the balance, with City Hall allocating millions to boroughs to help them bring homes back into council ownership.
At a recent Mayor’s Question Time, Mr Khan said Right to Buy has resulted in many Londoners becoming stuck in the private rental sector, with high costs rendering them unable to save up for a deposit.
He praised the announcement by the government that it will allow councils to retain 100% of their Right to Buy receipts between 2022 and 2024, but added Whitehall “needs to do more to guarantee like-for-like replacements”, such as removing the cap on the receipts which can be used for acquisitions.
Pressed by Green Party Assembly Member (AM) Siân Berry as to whether he supports ending the scheme, describing it as “a drag” on the council homes he and the boroughs have been building, Mr Khan said he wants the government to devolve the powers necessary for him to suspend it in the capital.
He said: “One of the things I want to do is to persuade, if not this government then the next government, to devolve to me those powers. And one of the things I’ll be looking into, for the reasons that you’ve set out, is to suspend Right to Buy, for the reasons that both you and I agree with.”
Mr Khan added he would also look at measures such as reducing the discounts available, and ensuring there is more flexibility “in relation to the monies coming in”.
“Even in the most recent years, we’re not catching up in relation to those that have been sold off and not replaced,” he said.
“On average, since 1979, it’s six to one, some years 15 to one, those sold off versus those replaced. Recently we’ve managed to flip it, but it doesn’t make up for the last 40 years.”
Earlier this year, the mayor announced he had surpassed his target of starting 116,000 affordable homes for Londoners in a bid to tackle the housing crisis.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities was approached for comment.
Labour was approached to ask whether the party backed devolving powers to Mr Khan, but did not respond.