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Multimillion-pound social housing sell-offs are still fuelling homelessness

Housing associations have made at least £82.3m from auctioning homes in five London boroughs since 2013, according to the Guardian

Tower blocks in Peckham. Image: Axel Drainville/Flickr

Housing associations in London have been slammed as figures show more than 150,000 social homes have been lost since 2012.

According to figures seen by the Guardian, associations have made at least £82.3m from auctioning homes in five London boroughs since 2013.

Analysis from Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North, found that Brent, Camden, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea housing associations sold 153 properties at auction through Savills estate agents – with more than half in Westminster totalling £36.4m in sales.

The auctions point towards a wider trend of some housing associations selling off social homes in expensive central London to fund new private developments.

Buck said: “I’m dealing with a family who are statutorily overcrowded and in the highest medical priority and I haven’t been able to get them moved in over eight years. That’s because housing associations [in general] say they don’t have the stock in the area and yet they’re still selling off homes.”

Tripled

Across the UK, sales of housing association social homes to the private sector have more than tripled since 2001, with 3,891 social homes sold in 2016.

According to experts, the sales are fuelling overcrowding and homelessness and undermining bids to tackle the housing crisis with Steve Hilditch, former head of policy for Shelter and a housing adviser to the last Labour government claiming, “They’re buying and leasing homes all over London as temporary accommodation yet housing association homes within these boroughs are being sold off.”

Other housing associations meanwhile are focusing on redevelopment. Kensington and Chelsea council and local residents warned a public inquiry that backing plans to redevelop the Sutton estate, a red-brick Edwardian mansion block near King’s Road, would push thousands of tenants into temporary accommodation or homelessness as associations would be encouraged to sell privately rather than update social housing.

The plans, from England’s largest housing association Clarion Group have sparked debate over the provision of social housing in the area just a year after the Grenfell fire in the north of the borough.

Despite around 200 vacant flats on the Sutton estate, many survivors are still living in temporary accommodation. Clarion has said the empty homes were not fit to be let however campaigners argue better maintenance of the estate would have offered more suitable permanent accommodation.

Kim Taylor-Smith, deputy council leader and lead member for Grenfell and housing, says, “It’s my view that Clarion’s intent from day one was to make money from the Sutton estate,” he says. “But William Sutton’s motivation was to provide homes for the poor. I would hope that they remember that.”

A spokesman for the council says it has spent £235m on securing 307 properties to help rehouse people affected by the fire. Of the 203 households requiring rehousing, 134 have a new permanent home, while 52 are in temporary and 15 in emergency accommodation.

Image: Flickr/Axel Drainville

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