Labour councillors are calling on Westminster Council to challenge the Government about its plans to sell off hundreds of Westminster council homes to fund its national right to buy for housing association tenants.
The Council’s housing department has said that Conservative government plans will require the sale of an estimated 200 homes annually, around half of the council stock that becomes vacant each year. However, Labour fears that this may be an optimistic projection based on plans that would see homes worth over £340,000 (1 bed), £400,000 (2 bed), £490,000 (3 bed), £790,000 (4 bed) and £1,205,000 (5 bed) sold off. Under the Government’s perverse plans the 100 new social homes Westminster Council is planning to deliver each year would not only fail to fill this gap but risk being immediately sold off to fund the scheme.
Labour are calling on the Council to stand up for Westminster in negotiations with central government, using their purported influence with Conservative ministers to stop plans that would see huge numbers of Westminster properties sold off and not replaced in the borough. Westminster Council has so far failed to speak out in public against the plans, unlike a number of other inner London boroughs and even Boris Johnson.
Labour councillors are urging Westminster to lobby the government to find another way to fund its plans. But if the government does decided to go ahead with the sell off the council must make sure all of the borough’s council homes being sold to fund this scheme are fully replaced within our city.
Labour leader Councillor Adam Hug says:
“Westminster Labour Group has put forward a moderate proposal that calls on the Council leadership to put the future of our city before party concerns. Conservative Government plans for enforced council home sales threaten the future of social housing in Westminster and of the mixed communities that make our city special.”
1. Labour’s motion to the Full Council on Wednesday 8th July is as follows:
“The Council notes that the Government is proposing to force local authorities to sell off high value council properties, many of which are to be found in Westminster, to fund its manifesto commitment to give tenants of English registered social landlords a right to buy their properties and cover a number of additional costs.
According to the Housing Department the Council expects that the Government’s proposals would require the sale of around 200 council owned homes that become vacant each year, currently around half of annual council social rent relets.
The Council resolves to directly lobby the Government, in addition to working with the GLA, London Councils and other bodies, to make clear the real challenges that such proposals make for maintaining the social mix within Westminster and the ability of the local authority to respond to both its significant housing need and stated aims of providing new opportunities for working people in within the local authority boundaries.
The Council urges the Government to find an alternative source of funding to support home ownership amongst housing association tenants. If the Government cannot be made to rethink its plans and persists in using higher value social housing to fund its policy Westminster Council agrees to lobby, in concert with other inner London authorities, to ensure that:
• Funding retained by the council from these enforced sales must be of a sufficient level to enable the replacement of at least an equal number of similarly sized or larger homes within Westminster in-line with the requirements of its housing stock strategy. These replacement homes must be built in Westminster in addition to, rather than replacement for, the council’s own plans for new social and affordable housing building. There should be no delays between the sale of Westminster properties and the completion of their replacements.
• Any valuation thresholds and mechanisms for enforced sales are set at levels which reduce the proposed impact on Westminster. These thresholds must rise at least with inner London property prices to prevent the council being forced to sell a higher proportion of its homes in future years.”
2. The current Conservative Government scheme requires the funds generated from sales to cover:
a) The replacement local authority home
b) The right to buy discount offered by the registered provider (up to £102k in London)
c) The replacement housing association home
d) Any debt and other costs associated with the sale of both homes
e) A contribution to the national Brownfield fund
3. Under the existing requirements for the one for one replacement of homes under the right to buy Shelter have shown that Westminster has replaced only one home for every eleven sold as of March 2015 http://blog.shelter.org.uk/2015/03/right-to-buy-one-to-one-replacement-falling-short-in-london