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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Right to Buy homes scheme could be axed

New measures to protect Wales’ social housing stock have been put forward by the Welsh Government today.
Communities and Tackling Poverty Minister, Lesley Griffiths, has published a White Paper setting out the Welsh Government’s intention to end Right to Buy and Right to Acquire.
The Right to Buy and Right to Acquire allows eligible social housing tenants to buy their council or housing association home at a discount of up to £16,000.

Over the past 30 years, the policy has resulted in a significant reduction in social housing stock. Between 1981 and 2014, 138,423 council homes were sold – this is a 45% reduction in the social housing available when the policy was first introduced.

The Minister has also set out plans today to halve the current maximum discount from £16,000 to £8,000.

Lesley Griffiths said: “Many families depend on social housing for a safe, secure and affordable place to live.

“Our supply of homes is under considerable pressure and we are still seeing social rented properties being taken out of our social housing stock because of the Right to Buy, which is forcing many vulnerable people to wait longer for a home. This is why decisive action is needed to protect our social housing to make sure it is available for those who need it most.”

The Housing (Wales) Measure 2011 allows local authorities to apply for permission to suspend the Right to Buy and Right to Acquire locally to help tackle housing pressures. Carmarthenshire Council was the first local authority to ask the Welsh Government to suspend of Right to Buy and, today, the Communities and Tackling Poverty Minister, Lesley Griffiths, approved Carmarthenshire’s application.

Cllr Dyfed Edwards, Welsh Local Government Association spokesperson for Housing, said: “With many thousands of people currently on housing waiting lists, and at a time of acute shortages of affordable homes, the proposal from Welsh Government to abolish the Right To Buy scheme is a welcome step in tackling a growing problem in Wales.

“Despite the considerable efforts that local councils and housing associations are making to increase the overall supply of social housing by building new homes, housing provision continues to struggle to meet the rising level of housing need in Wales. The loss of properties through the Right To Buy has worsened this situation and has, in some circumstances, acted as a considerable disincentive for further housing development. Ending the Right to Buy scheme will help ensure that local councils and their wider housing sector partners can begin to meet housing demand and offer people access to affordable housing more quickly and effectively in the future.”

The Minister added: “We are taking action to protect Wales’ social housing stock – as well as moving to end Right to Buy. During this term of Government, we are investing over £400 million in affordable homes through our Social Housing Grant programme. Since 2011, 6,890 additional affordable homes have been delivered across Wales, while we are just 529 short of our target of bringing 5,000 empty homes back into use this Assembly term.”

The White Paper consultation seeks the public’s views on the proposals. The consultation will close on 16 April 2015.

Peter Black AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Housing, has said the Welsh Labour Government’s announcement of an outright ban on ‘Right to Buy’ is “unnecessary and is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”
He said: “We accept that ‘Right to Buy’ is making local authorities reluctant to build new homes.  However, they can already make the case to government to suspend ‘Right to Buy’ if they wish.
“The Minister’s plan for an outright ban on ‘Right to Buy’ is unnecessary and she is effectively taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
“If the Minister wants to give local authorities an additional incentive to build new homes, then she could do this by just restricting the right to buy on new builds – this could be implemented without affecting tenants existing rights while at the same time increasing the housing stock.
“Whilst it would be reasonable to stop the option of ‘Right to Buy’ to new tenants, it is completely unfair for people’s hopes and plans to buy their home to be dashed just because the Welsh Labour Government fancies grabbing a headline.  This is cheap politics that will cost many people dear.
“If the Welsh Labour Government was serious about sorting out Wales’ housing crisis, then it would finance the building of new homes – something it has categorically failed to do.”

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