White Paper: Right to Buy could apply to council housing companies

White Paper ‘welcomes’ council housing companies and related initiatives, but says tenants placed in such homes should be offered equivalent terms to those in council housing – including a right to buy.

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Council housing companies could be subject to Right to Buy (RTB) on the homes they build.

Provision for this option is made in the government’s housing White Paper outlined today (Tues).

A number of councils have either set up, or are planning to set up, housing companies to directly build homes for affordable rent, private rent and market sale – some to offset the loss of stock through RTB and an action government has warned against.

While the White Paper ‘welcomes’ the concept of council housing companies, local development corporations and joint ventures it states that tenants councils place in in these ‘affordable’ properties should be offered equivalent terms to those in council housing – including a right to buy.

The White Paper effectively orders councils to build thousands more homes, with an emphasis on high-rise blocks and city centre developments, as part of the government’s housing strategy.

Too few councils have plans to meet the unprecedented housing demand, the government will say, with 40% of local planning authorities lacking an adequate plan for building new homes to meet the projected growth in household numbers.

New centralised standards will be set for local councils to project their future housing needs, with the expectation that the plans will be reviewed every five years.

Responding to the White Paper, Cllr Martin Tett, Housing spokesman at the Local Government Association, said:

“This White Paper includes some encouraging signs that government is listening to councils on how to boost housing supply and increase affordability. We are pleased it has taken on board a number of recommendations made in our recent Housing Commission final report.

“Communities must have faith that the planning system responds to their aspirations for their local area, rather than simply being driven by national targets.

“To achieve this, councils must have powers to ensure that new homes are affordable and meet their assessments of local need, are attractive and well-designed, and are supported by the schools, hospitals, roads and other services vital for places to succeed.

“All types of homes – including those for affordable and social rent – have to be built to solve our housing crisis and flexibility around starter homes is much-needed recognition of this. It is important that councils have powers to ensure a mix of homes are built, alongside the infrastructure to support strong communities.

“Our cities, towns and villages are already saying ‘yes’ to development as nine in 10 planning applications are approved, but increasingly the homes are not being built. Giving councils the power to force developers to build homes more quickly and to properly fund their planning services are vital for our communities to prosper.

“Local government believes even more needs to be done to rapidly build more genuinely affordable homes to help families struggling to meet housing costs, provide homes to rent, reduce homelessness and tackle the housing waiting lists many councils have.

“For this to happen, councils desperately need the powers and access to funding to resume their historic role as a major builder of affordable homes. This means being able to borrow to invest in housing and to keep 100 per cent of the receipts from properties sold through Right to Buy to replace homes and reinvest in building more of the genuine affordable homes our communities desperately need.”

The LGA’s Housing Commission, set up to explore new ways to boost housebuilding, has set out more than 30 recommendations for how local and national government can work together to solve the nation’s housing challenges.

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