The mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced a new “Right to Buy-back” fund to boost the city’s supply of council homes.
The new fund will give London’s boroughs the funds to buy back council homes sold into the private market through the government’s Right to Buy programme.
Right to Buy, introduced under Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980 Housing Act, gives council tenants who have lived in their home for over three years the chance to buy their property at a price substantially below market rate.
While Right to Buy sales have been declining recently, the policy continues to affect London’s council housing supply. Over 300,000 council homes in the capital have been sold through Right to Buy since its introduction, with four in 10 of those homes now rented on the private market.
The Right to Buy-back scheme will make money available for councils and council-owned housing companies to acquire homes to be let at social rent levels or used as accommodation for homeless families. All homes purchased through the scheme must meet the government’s Decent Homes Standard.
Khan said: “For more than 40 years, London’s precious council homes have been disappearing into the private sector, often never to be replaced. It’s time for that to change.
“We’re not only helping councils to build thousands of new council homes, but we’re giving them the resources to buy back former council homes through our Right to Buy-back scheme. In the midst of a housing affordability crisis it feels grossly unfair and unjust that more than four in ten council homes sold through the Right to Buy in London are now in the hands of private landlords. These were, after all, homes built for the public good.
“I am proud that we have brought council homebuilding back up to levels not seen since the 1980s and I’m encouraged by the enthusiasm I see from boroughs across London for building new council homes. Fixing the housing crisis is going to take time, but this new Right to Buy-back scheme is an innovative new tool that will help to take another step in the right direction.”
Khan has prioritised overseeing a “renaissance” in council housing in London as a way to tackle the capital’s housing crisis, with London the least affordable area of the country in which to rent a home.
Khan’s Building Council Homes for Londoners’ funding programme is on track to help London boroughs start 10,000 new council homes between 2018 and 2023, while more homes at social rent levels were started or acquired in London than all other regions of England in 2020/21.
In 2019/20 and 2020/21, London boroughs recorded starting 3,304 and 3,156 council homes respectively, the highest and second highest such numbers since 1983.
Cllr Georgia Gould, leader of Camden Council, said: “In Camden we are proud to be challenging a national failed approach to tackling homelessness by buying back homes that we have been forced to sell off through years of damaging right to buy policy, and using them to house homeless families in need of temporary accommodation in our borough.
“Since July 2019, Camden has repurchased 61 former council properties and we plan to purchase a further 80 through £35 million of additional investment into our Temporary Accommodation Purchase Programme. This is vital investment that is helping to deliver more high quality, temporary accommodation for those who need it most. It is also helping our vulnerable families to stay within the borough, with their communities, close to their schools and networks, as we support them to move into long term settled accommodation.
“Camden, like much of London, has found itself at the sharp end of the housing affordability crisis and, as we rebuild from the devastating impact of COVID-19, there has been no greater time for change. We welcome the Mayor’s announcement and look forward to working with the mayor as other boroughs join Camden in reclaiming decades of lost social housing for Londoners.”
Damien Egan, mayor of Lewisham, said: “The Right to Buy-back scheme is great news for Lewisham. The mayor’s plan will enable us to reclaim urgently needed housing that was originally and rightfully intended for public ownership.
“London is facing a housing crisis, and alongside our Building for Lewisham housebuilding programme, the Right to Buy-back scheme will be important in helping us move more Lewisham residents off the housing waiting list and into secure social homes.”