Housing

Right to Buy: Fewer than half of homes sold off in the last year have been replaced

New figures show Right to Buy is continuing to erode England’s social housing stock as Boris Johnson looks to expand the scheme.

Boris Johnson announced plans to extend Right to Buy to housing association tenants. Image: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

Fewer than half of the homes sold off through Right to Buy in England last year have been replaced as Boris Johnson plans to press on with expanding the scheme.

New figures show local authorities reported 10,878 eligible sales between April 2021 and March 2002, generating just over £1billion.

But only 5,089 replacements were funded through receipts, with local authorities starting or acquiring 4,788 properties while Homes England or the Greater London Authority added another 301.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities figures come a month after Boris Johnson set out his plans to expand the Right to Buy scheme to housing association tenants. The prime minister also announced that people receiving benefits would be able to direct housing benefit towards a mortgage, claiming it would allow four million people to get on the property ladder.

Speaking in Blackpool last month, Johnson said: “I want us to deliver on the long-standing commitment, made by several governments, to extend the right to buy to housing associations.

“But there are now 2.5 million households whose homes belong to housing associations – and they are trapped. “They cannot buy, they don’t have the security of ownership, they cannot treat their home as their own or make the improvements they want.

“So it’s time for change.”

The prime minister said the number of tenants who had used the Right to Buy scheme had been “steadily diminishing” in recent years.

That changed in the last year with a three per cent rise in eligible sales – the first increase since 2016/17 – but statisticians say this may be down to a catch up of sales missed during the pandemic.

Overall, more than two million homes have been sold through Right to Buy since Margaret Thatcher launched the scheme in 1980 but in that time less than 5 per cent have been replaced, housing expert Rose Grayston told The Big Issue.

Johnson’s own plans to expand it have already triggered fears it could continue to erode social housing stock at a time when a lack of affordable homes is contributing to the housing crisis, while rents and house prices continue to rise.

“As a result, low income families who in times past would have had access to social housing are now living in the private rented sector, with less security and higher rents,” said Grayston.

“Recently, the government suggested dusting off old plans to extend the Right to Buy to housing association homes, despite having no plan for how to keep its promise to actually replace social homes that are sold off through the scheme. This is no way to solve a housing crisis.”

Earlier this week MPs from the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee called on the government to present a fully-funded plan for ensuring one-for-one and like-for-like placements for every home sold under Right to Buy.

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As part of the committee’s investigation into the regulation of social housing, MPs said: “The existing policy has reduced the number of homes available for social rent and increased the proportion of the social housing stock that is hard to maintain, as most of the properties bought have been in suburban areas, rather than inner-city areas, where much of the harder-to-maintain stock is concentrated.

“To prevent the further erosion of the social housing stock, we recommend that the government present a fully-funded plan for ensuring the one-for-one and like-for-like replacement of every home sold under Right to Buy.”

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