Twitter fight sees stay on high value council home sales

Communities secretary confirms to twitter campaign councillor that the high value asset levy won’t kick in for another two years.

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A London councillor who kept up a 61-day twitter campaign to see off a policy that has councils selling off their higher value homes to boost Right to Buy (RTB) says a two year stay on such sales will see him stop – for now.

The target of the tweets, communities secretary Sajid Javid, has written to Cllr Diarmaid Ward, executive member for housing and development at Islington Council, to confirm councils local authorities won’t be expected to sell in 2017/18 or in 2018/19.

Islington estimated it would have to sell around 300 homes a year under the high-value asset levy – the greatest number of any council in the country.

The policy introduced by the Cameron government under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 – was intended to fund an extension of the Right to Buy to housing association tenants, with councils covering the cost by selling their most valuable homes when they become vacant.

“Forcing councils to sell off much-needed council homes makes no sense,” said Cllr Ward.

“The secretary of state’s announcement that councils will not have to make payments for two years is a big win for our campaign, but we need the government to drop this policy altogether.”

But the tweets, said Cllr Ward, would stop “for now”.

John Bibby, chief executive of the Association of Retained Council Housing, cautiously welcomed the stay but said the continuing uncertainty about the amount and timing of any future levy was a “major drag” on investment in new housing through the HRA.

That, he said, made it “prohibitively risky” for many councils to commit to significant housing investment plans, whether in improvements to the existing stock, or new building.

The autumn budget heightened council concerns over the policy with its announcement of RTB being extended in the Midlands from July next year – funded by the Treasury.

In statement, the DCLG said: “We are considering how to implement the legislation on Higher Value Assets under the Housing and Planning Act 2016.”

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