THE government’s Right to Buy scheme for tenants in social housing has been a “disaster” for Coventry and is contributing to the city’s chronic housing shortage, says a leading councillor.
Coventry Labour councillor Ed Ruane has produced figures showing 194 Whitefriars Housing properties have been sold under a scheme since the coalition government came to power in 2010.
The cabinet member for children and young people says it has been particularly disastrous for families, and is adding to a chronic shortage of larger homes for hard-up families desperate for suitable social housing.
For years, housebuilding in Coventry including social housing has failed to keep pace with targets driven by migration, longer life expectancy and other demographic factors.
Private rents have soared as the city struggles to cope with demand, and Labour leaders are advocating building on up to 10 per cent of the green belt to cope with their aspirations for population growth to become a “top ten city”.
Of the 194 properties sold in the last five years, just under half of these properties, 96, were three and four bedroom houses.
There are 14,000 poeple registered on the city’s social housing waiting list called Homefinder, almost half the figure of five years ago when it was said that quick and easy online registrations did not represent actual demand.
The Conservatives in government have now said plans to sell more housing association homes to tenants will be offset by incentives for private housebuilders to deliver more ‘affordable housing’ – available at rents which are a high percentage of market value – and other measures.
But Coun Ruane said: “The Right to Buy scheme has been disastrous.
“It’s no surprise that we have a shortage in our city and nationally of family sized homes, when you see the rate at which family sized homes are being sold off.
“The government will make this situation even worse with its plans to sell off housing association properties through Right to Buy, without any credible plans to replace them.
“Not only will it mean that a public asset is sold off at a discount, returning less than its full value to the taxpayer who funded it, but it will also result in higher housing benefit spending.
“Taxpayers will pay three times over for this, first for the investment to build the homes, second for the discount to sell them and third for the higher housing benefit bill that will result.
“It simply fails the tests of good economics and sound fiscal management.
“Be under no illusion that the selling off housing association properties will result in fewer genuinely affordable homes.”
All Coventry’s 20,000 council homes were sold to Whitefriars under an agreement struck 15 years ago.
Coun Ruane recently called for the government to give councils more borrowing freedoms to allow Coventry City Council to built council homes again.
Coun Ruane pointed to an Inside Housing national study’s findings that almost 40 per cent of former council homes sold ‘on the cheap’ under the Right to Buy scheme were being let out on the expensive private rental market.
He said it was “enriching a new generation of landlords.”
Councils revealed they have sold 127,763 leasehold properties – typically flats and maisonettes – with 47,994 leaseholders now living at another address – indicating the homes were being sublet.