The Stirling Prize-winning housing project Goldsmith Street in Norwich (Designed by Michail Riches) will shortly see the first home sold off under Right to Buy. The first-ever council housing scheme to win the RIBA Stirling Prize and only the second-ever housing project, Goldsmith Street has been described as a ‘modest masterpiece’ and celebrated for its low-energy design and generous community spaces.
Norwich City Council remain committed to building high-quality social housing to increase the number of affordable homes in the city, but highlight they face a huge challenge due to the numbers lost through the Right to Buy each year.
The sale in Norwich highlights the struggles Councils have in developing and maintaining good rental affordable housing stock.
Right to Buy was first introduced under prime minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s and was a key Conservative housing policy. Under the legislation, council tenants can buy their homes at a discount, depending on how long they have been living in the property. The Right to Buy has helped many families get on the housing ladder.
Councils only receive 30 per cent of any sales of properties sold through the Right to Buy, with the remainder going to central government. If this retained money is not spent within three years, councils have to pay it back.
Since 2012, councils have sold 96,126 homes under the Right to Buy Scheme and started building 32,901 homes. Assuming all starts are completed this would equal a loss of around 63,225 social rented homes.
There is also concern over the government proposals to extend Right to Buy to housing association tenants following a pilot in 2018. This would mean 2.5 million housing association tenants would also be able to access discounts when purchasing their home. This move has been widely criticised by many housing associations, as well as local councils, as it is argued it will lead to a further reduction in housing stock and put further pressure on housing waiting lists.
The Local Government Association, which represents more than 350 councils in England and Wales, has warned the original policy is becoming ‘unsustainable’ as councils struggle to replace the homes being sold off.
The size of the discounts available were increased in April 2012, and as a result the average discount has increased by 150 per cent to more than £67,000 in 2020/21. At the same time, this has led to a quadrupling in the number of Right to Buy Sales. A recent report by the body found that almost £6 billion had been given out in discounts through the Right to Buy scheme since the size of the discount was increased in 2012.
The LGA believes the scheme faces an uncertain future unless councils are given the flexibility to set discounts locally and retain 100 per cent of sales receipts to fund the replacement of homes sold off under the scheme. The LGA consider that every home sold that isn’t replaced risks pushing more families into the private rented sector, driving up housing benefit spending and rents and exacerbating homelessness. More details on LGA views can be found here
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