‘Slow death of social housing’: 80,000 council homes face Tory chop

© Phil Noble
The Conservative government’s Housing and Planning Bill will cause at least 80,000 council properties in Britain to vanish by 2020, according to the Local Government Association (LGA), intensifying the nation’s housing crisis.

The LGA predicts councils will be forced to sell off 66,000 homes under the existing Right to Buy scheme by the end of the decade. 

It claims this will lead to a further loss of 22,000 council-owned properties. This will add as much as £210 million to families’ living costs as they are forced to move into the expensive private rental sector, it added.

The draft legislation, proposed by Prime Minister David Cameron, aims to extend the number of sites on which starter homes can be built. 

Publication of the draft bill in October confirmed government ministers plan to introduce a “pay-to-stay” scheme, a system that would force families living in social housing and earning £30,000-£40,000 in London to pay rents nearly as high as those in the private sector.

If passed, the bill would also compel local authorities to sell “high value” housing, either by transferring public housing into private hands or giving the land it sits on to property developers.

Therefore, rents and waiting lists would soar, making it harder for lower-income and middle-income families to afford to live in the capital.

‘Slow death of council housing’ 

The number of council homes in Britain has already fallen from 5 million in 1981 to 1.7 million in 2014. Critics argue the government’s plans could contribute to the “slow death” of council housing.

Councils want to help the government shift spending from benefits to bricks and support measures to help people into home ownership but the Right to Buy extension must absolutely not be funded by forcing councils to sell off their homes,” a spokesperson for the LGA told the IB Times.

As a minimum, we forecast that 88,000 council homes will be sold up to 2020. There is a real risk that complex rules and restrictions will combine with certain aspects of the Housing and Planning Bill to have the unintended consequence of making building replacements almost impossible.”

Supporting the LGA’s claims, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “The Conservatives try and paint Right to Buy as somehow aspirational but it is actually the slow death of social housing.”

Further commenting on the crisis, the Radical Housing Network (RHN) said it will continue to campaign against the bill, which they believe will spell the end of social housing.

The housing bill wasn’t part of the election manifesto. It will devastate the housing market and push the cost of housing up, this will change the landscape,” the RHN told RT.

London is the place where people want to live, this is where the jobs are. People are now being pushed out into places where there aren’t any jobs. Ordinary people will be affected.”

The group told RT it aims to “let people know about the housing bill as many people don’t know how it will affect them.”

In March, Annington Property Ltd, the owners of Sweets Way in Barnet, north London, evicted hundreds of council tenants to make way for a new housing development.

The group attempted to reoccupy their old homes in a “sleepover protest” organized by comedian Russell Brand in March, but Annington Property said it would launch court proceedings on squatters.

‘We will continue to fight the Bill’ 

Sweets Way Resists (SWR), a group of evictees from the estate, told RT they will “continue to fight the housing bill at every stage.”

What the government is proposing through the Housing and Planning Bill will apply – and worsen – what has been going on with Council housing in the Tory testing ground of Barnet since the 1980s. This will mean nothing less than the abolition of council housing, not out of any practical necessity, but to fulfill an ideological commitment to leave housing entirely up to the whims of the free market.

The impacts of this approach in Barnet have been devastating, with the council giving away whole estates to property developers and actively encouraging poor and working people to leave the borough – and even London.”

That’s why we are joining the Kill the Bill march on Saturday and will continue to fight this legislation at every stage.”

‘Misleading, based on speculation’ 

The government has hit back at his back at LGA’s claims, describing their research as “misleading and based on speculation.”

More council housing has been built since 2010 than in the previous 13 years,” a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said.

More homes were built as a result of Right to Buy under the first year of the reinvigorated scheme, showing councils are delivering on their commitment to provide a new affordable property within three years.

The housing bill ensures the sale of empty high value council assets will enable receipts to be reinvested in building new homes that better meet local needs as well as supporting home ownership through right to buy.”

The PM told the BBC's Andrew Marr: “I think it is time, with government money, but with massive private sector and perhaps pension sector help, to demolish the worst of these, and actually rebuild houses that people feel they can have a real future in.”