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Exclusive: Council plans to curb ‘Right to Buy’ powers

Southwark Council is petitioning the government for powers to curb Right to Buy, to help stem the loss of council houses in the borough.

Cllr Leo Pollak

More than 1,300 homes in Southwark have moved into private hands since the discount on right to buy was deepened in 2012 by the coalition government.

Often, they are sub-let to renters eligible for council homes – but with more than 25,000 people waiting on the list, the likelihood of them getting a council home anytime soon is often tiny.

Now, Southwark’s Labour-run council is taking a strong line and lobbying central government to give it extra powers to limit the number of Right to Buy purchases.

These could include a ‘one in one out’ cap, limited sub-letting of right to buy properties at social rent levels, and pushing the government to ensure right to buy cash can be put towards replacement homes.

Leo Pollak, cabinet member for social regeneration, great estates and new council homes said: “While we don’t begrudge any individual tenant exercising their right to buy, with over 25,000 people on the housing register we have been looking into ways of mitigating the impact of right to buy in the borough.

“We have a responsibility to maintain the existing stock of council homes at council rents in the borough, which is why we’re looking to advance two ideas for better maintaining the overall stock of social homes.

“As in our manifesto and council plan, we are seeking advice on the legal risks attached to placing covenants in new right to buy leases compelling, or otherwise incentivising, all subsequent sub-letting to be at a social rent.

“We are also lobbying government to introduce a ‘one in-one out’ policy for Right to Buy, effectively capping the number of applications in one year based on the number of council homes completions in the previous year.

“Further to this, we are also arguing for full and flexible retention of right to buy receipts where current government rules limit in replacing lost homes as the receipts can only be used to cover 30 per cent of the development cost of a replacement home, and have to be spent within narrow timeframes.”

The Right to Buy scheme helps eligible council tenants in England to buy their home with a discount of up to £108,000.

In 2015, Cameron’s government announced plans to extend Right to Buy to include housing association tenants as a flagship policy. The plans were widely criticised by housing campaigners.


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