Government urges councils to sell off high-value houses

Rooftops The move would reduce the housing waiting list, Policy Exchange said

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Councils should consider selling off their most expensive houses to build more cheap homes, the government says.

Downing Street backed a report by think tank Policy Exchange which said selling high value homes when they become vacant would raise £4.5bn a year.

That would be enough to build 80,000 to 170,000 social homes, the report said.

Labour said new homes were urgently needed but "driving out hard-working families on low wages from whole neighbourhoods" was not the answer.

In its Ending Expensive Social Tenancies report, Policy Exchange argues the move could create the largest social house building programme since the 1970s - giving the economy a kickstart.

Neil O'Brien, the think tank's director, told the BBC that social housing would still exist in very expensive areas under its proposal, but there would just be "less of it".

Start Quote

The government should not force them to arbitrarily sell-off social homes, breaking-up mixed communities”

End Quote Jack Dromey Shadow housing minister

"The truth is I don't believe anybody has the right to live in the most expensive parts of town.

"People do have a right to get housed, just not in the very most expensive areas," he said.

He also suggested that the overall number of people waiting for social housing, currently around 1.8 million, could be reduced by about 500,000 if the scheme was implemented.

'Failed policies'

The prime minister's official spokesman said: "This is something that councils can choose to do already.

"Councils should be looking for ways to use their social housing stock as efficiently as they can. The waiting list for social housing has increased a lot over passing years.

"They need to think about how they can use that social housing stock efficiently.

"If they can sell high-value housing to invest in more social housing and find more homes for more people, then that is certainly something they should look at."

But Labour said the coalition's "failed" polices were "making the housing crisis worse not better".

Shadow housing minister Jack Dromey said: "Councils and housing associations should make effective use of their housing stock but the government should not force them to arbitrarily sell off social homes, breaking up mixed communities and driving out hard-working families on low wages from whole neighbourhoods."

He said the government should use a bank bonus tax to fund 250,000 affordable homes and "put unemployed builders back to work" and boost the construction industry.

'Lucky family'

Expensive social housing - which Policy Exchange defines as housing worth more than the average property in each region - accounts for 21.8% of the total social housing stock in the UK, it says.

This equates to 816,000 properties - out of a total of 3.78 million - which the think tank says could raise up to £159bn if sold.

It says London alone has more than £70bn of expensive social housing.

About 3.5% of the total stock becomes vacant every year owing to people moving out or dying, the think tank said.

This meant the government could sell a total of 28,500 properties each year, raising £5.5bn a year. The figure would stand at £4.5bn after paying off the debt held against the stock, the report said.

Mr O'Brien argued that many hard-working people might want to live in a nicer area or in a bigger house but could not afford to.

"Rather than having one lucky family with a very expensive house, you would have two families perhaps desperately waiting for social housing, now having a roof over their heads.

"That seems fairer to me," he added.

Alex Morton, Policy Exchange: "One in five social houses is worth more than the regional average"

The think tank also said the move would be "extremely popular" with all sections of society, claiming that 73% of people, including social tenants, think people should not be given council houses worth more than the average property in a local authority.

'Dramatic erosion'

Critics say such a move would push the least well-off out of expensive streets, and into new ghettos.

The National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, says many towns would be "cleansed" of "hardworking people who can't afford to pay high prices".

Labour MP Karen Buck, who represents Westminster North, is concerned that lower income families, particularly in London, will be forced out of more affluent areas creating segregated communities of rich and poor.

Ms Buck also argued that the Labour government's £8bn social and affordable housing building programme was cut by 60% when the coalition came to power.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps - who is in favour of a sell-off - said the government had introduced "radical reforms" to "get Britain building" and to reduce social housing waiting lists.

They included investing £19.5bn public and private funding into an affordable housing programme "set to exceed expectations and deliver up to 170,000 homes".

Councils could now offer fixed-term tenancies to new tenants to make sure "social housing goes to those in greatest need", he added.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1092.

    Tax payers alliance....Alias. Tax havens alliance.


  • rate this

    Comment number 1091.

    Anyone in a council house earning average wage should be paid the equivalent of private rent in that area for same size property,

    Why should everone else subsidise people in council houses who earn more than them, and yes it subsidised through council tax

  • Comment number 1090.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1089.

    Norman Brooke
    yes, lets build lots of basic, clean, inexpensive dwellings that encourage people to better themselves rather than expect me to better them.if you can afford to get wasted every night in front of your £70 a month sky tv, then you should be swiftly moved along
    im guessing from your comments that standing on your own feet is a concept that escapes you , another wasted existence

  • rate this

    Comment number 1088.


    So you'd flood an already struggling sector with all the unfortunate current jobless? Creating ever more joblessness?

    Social housing can VERY EASILY be built cheaply, or vacant properties can VERY EASILY be refurbished.

    Problem is it will lessen demand on housing a little = lower prices = bust banks again hence this sell first and pretend we'll do something with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1087.

    So we make a more effective use of our social housing stock
    More modern housing .
    More jobs .
    easier to get on the ladder.

    Where is the problem

    Other than its this lots idea rather than that lots idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1086.

    1074.Nemesis of Socialism is Nigh, who would the '5.05' cavalry be then your bankers mates, most of us workers don't have the luxury of being able to work 9-5...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1085.

    I think a block of flats should be built where all the MPs can stay when they have to be in London - including office facilities for them to use. No more subsidising their second homes, paying their mortgage interest, high rentals, furnishing etc. The money saved (including those extra valuable properties in Downing Street) should pay for loads of extra social housing for those who need it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1084.

    Reading some of these posts leads me to believe that some people think that the work of shirely porter was for the benefit of the populas

    what a samaritan she was

  • rate this

    Comment number 1083.

    Though the top voted, aren't 63 and 233 complete contradictions? On the one hand 'no to social cleansing' but on the other, only the wealthy can breed.

    I'm not saying either are right or wrong, but seem a complete contradiction, and I don't think I've ever seen a balanced amount of +rated comments on HYS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1082.

    This proposal should be seen as a purely practical response to a addressing the current housing crisis.
    Over 25 years ago I was the chair of a housing association that adopted precisely the policy proposed by the Policy Exchange, we did this for purely practical reasons, not because we didn't think it right for Clifton to have some social housing!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1081.

    I personally like the principle behind this. So long as there are enough bedrooms for the number of people in the household, then down sizing isn't too bad.
    I live in a 1 bed, ground floor flat. I am also in a council village, a mix of small bungalows, 1 up 1 down flats, small houses (3 bed max) for larger families. A house any larger is ludicrous for small families/singles/couples.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1080.

    Nick 1054.
    "Isn't this exactly the kind of left wing ideal you should be arguing for?"

    If the idea had come from the Guardian or Morning Star reading brigade the loony left fraternity would have welcomed it with open arms but as their beloved labour party is rightfully where is belongs in opposition they will never support anything coming from the coalition

  • Comment number 1079.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1078.

    I'm not angry at benefit users they are taking the goodies that are being thrown at them by the govt.The govt are doing this to please the charitable feelings of the voter.In a few months the bubble will BURST into a Greece style situation with the once wealthy starving.Just remember that you brought this on your self.People need to look at the bigger world wide picture before complaining.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1077.

    So you want 5 basic council homes. Can they have windows and running water Mr. Victorian?

    You dont mind tax havens eating the coffers of the Nation do you? British syle Capitalism = Corruption on a vast scale.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1076.

    1051.A Realist

    Maybe we need employment laws that force all employers to pay the Living Wage and not the Minimum Wage?
    The "Living wage" varies depending on where you live, so you'll immediately getting people complaining about "postcode lotteries" and such. If you make it a flat rate, you're just increasing the minmum wage.

  • Comment number 1075.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1074.

    5.05 and the cavalry will be coming over the hill, get your tin hats on you supporters of Tax Theft and Spongers your hard pressed victims will be come back from a hard days work taxed to the hilt to support your villainous tax grab & give. It will not be the luxury mansions some of the spongers live in they return to but they will have earn their abode.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1073.

    Policy Exchange

    Another group set up to find ways for rich Tories to profit at the expense of the public purse by transferring public assets into private hands.

    It's PIRACY!


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