England

Council house sales in England back to pre-recession levels

For sale sign Image copyright Thinkstock

The number of council homes in England sold under the right to buy scheme has more than doubled in two years.

The latest figures show sales are now above what they were in 2007, before the financial crisis that triggered the recession.

Department for Communities and Local Government statistics revealed 12,304 sales under right to buy in 2014-15, compared with 5,944 in 2012-13.

Housing charity Shelter said the homes were not being replaced by councils.

Birmingham City Council sold 517 homes, the most in the last financial year.

Although back to pre-recession levels, the numbers of sales by councils to their tenants under the right to buy were still less than a fifth of those for 2003-4, the year with the largest number of transfers this century.

Image copyright Daniel Wainwright

Council tenants have had the right to buy the homes they live in at a discount since the early 1980s.

The government plans to extend the right to buy homes at discounted rates to 1.3 million housing association tenants. Critics say it will make the housing crisis worse.

Shelter said one in three homes sold under right to buy have not been replaced by councils since 2012.

And Councillor Peter Box, housing spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: "These figures make it more important than ever for councils to be given the funding and powers to replace any homes sold under Right to Buy quickly and on a one-for-one basis.

"The current scheme only allows councils to replace half or fewer of the homes they have sold. Councils need to be able to retain 100% of receipts from sales while Right to Buy discounts should be set locally so they reflect the cost of houses in the area."

As one of the largest local authorities in Europe, Birmingham City Council topped the list for sales of council homes under right to buy with 517 homes sold. Neighbouring West Midlands council Sandwell was also in the top 10 with 256 homes sold.

The London borough of Southwark sold 304 homes. Property prices have been rising steadily and a site containing a pre-fabricated shed in Peckham recently sold for just under £1m at auction.

Image copyright Daniel Wainwright

Communities Secretary Greg Clark said the sales came alongside a 25% increase in house building in the past year.

He said: "We are going further and will do everything we can to help families buy a place of their own."

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