Single estate agency sold ‘millions of pounds’ worth of social housing

Sample figures show the extent of social housing sell-off in five London boroughs alone.

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A single estate agency sold 153 housing association homes in five London boroughs for over £80m – with a Labour MP fearing the sample figure reflects a wider trend with more than one million households on waiting lists.

Recent research by 24housing exposed the eye-watering near £500m spent by a sample of councils – including all London boroughs – on temporary accommodation over the past year.

Analysis released by Karen Buck, MP for Westminster North, shows five London providers made at least £82.3m from auctioning homes in five boroughs since 2013, according to figures.

The analysis identifies Westminster, Brent, Camden, Hammersmith & Fulham, and Kensington & Chelsea sold 153 properties at auction through a single agency – with more than half in Westminster where sales totalled £36.4m.

A flip side, said Buck, was a family she was dealing with as statutorily overcrowded and in the highest medical priority who haven’t been able to move in five years.

Nationally, sales of housing association homes to the private sector have more than tripled since 2001 – with 3,891 social homes sold in 2016 and estimates suggesting more than 150,000 homes for social rent lost since 2012.

Last month, tenants opposed to such sales protested outside an auction at a luxury hotel in London, where property developers and private landlords contested bids for more than £7m worth of former social housing stock sold by providers and councils serving boroughs with thousands in temporary accommodation and hundreds on the streets.

Providers defend such sales as funding new development, but tenant activist groups question the extent to which such development can be defined as social housing when frequently let at close to market rent or even sold on the open market.

Buck warns of providers becoming developers and losing their social purpose in doing so with sell-offs fuelling overcrowding and homelessness.

The issue was thrown in further focus with Kensington and Chelsea Council saying it had spent £235m on securing 307 properties to re-house survivors of, and those affected by, the Grenfell disaster.

But a report published this week by the North Kensington law centre, exposed many homes as unoccupied for months due to damp, disrepair and access issues.

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