UK news: Major council to consider suspension of Right to Buy

Cardiff homesCardiff City Council will this week consider recommendations to suspend the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme amid a high demand for housing in the city.

The Welsh Government has recently confirmed the intention to end the Right to Buy and Right to Acquire scheme within its current term and local authorities are able to apply to Welsh Ministers to suspend the schemes in areas of housing pressure for a period of up to five years.

The city council currently has stock of 13,470 properties, which has reduced from 23,000 properties in 1985, largely through the Right to Buy.

Most council tenants currently have the Right to Buy their homes after five years and receive a discount of up to £8,000 on the value while some housing association tenants have the Right to Acquire their homes.

But with a very high level of housing need for all types of accommodation in the city, and around 8,300 applicants on the common housing waiting list for social housing - 4,600 of whom are in significant housing need - the city council and its housing association partners are constantly seeking to increase the supply of affordable housing available.

Cabinet member for health, housing and wellbeing, Cllr Susan Elsmore, said: “Our city is growing and it’s estimated that we will need an additional 2,024 new affordable properties each year for the next five years to meet current demand.

“Every month, 450 new applications for housing are received but only 860 council properties became vacant and available to let in the whole of 2015/16.

“Our housing strategy identifies that 2,700 families in social housing in the city are living in severely overcrowded conditions while 2,400 households have medical reasons for need to move.

“We have delivered a number of affordable homes in the city over recent years and construction on the first sites in our exciting Housing Partnership Programme, which will deliver around 600 new council homes over the next eight years, begins soon.

“This is a significant investment and it is important that these new properties are available to those who need them most and are not lost through the Right to Buy.

“Every house sold through the scheme is a home that is no longer available to a family in need so for this reason, we will consider suspending the scheme and consulting with those who would be affected.”

Leader of the City of Cardiff Council, Cllr Phil Bale, added: “This is a really important step for the city to take in terms of helping to meet the need for quality affordable housing as we continue to grow.

“We have got a requirement to provide affordable housing in the city and unless we take steps that councils elsewhere have taken, we will see that stock diminish.”

The recommendations to consult on the suspension of the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme will be outlined at the meeting at City Hall on November 10.

If agreed, consultation will begin on December 1 and all results will be considered in the New Year and a proposed way forward reported back to Cabinet.

The Housing (Wales) Measure 2011 gave local housing authorities the ability to apply to the Welsh Ministers for a direction to suspend the Right to Buy/Acquire in areas of housing pressure for a period of up to five years.

This could be for a particular area or areas within the local authority area or for a type of property.

Carmarthen, Swansea and Ynys Mon have successfully made applications to suspend the Right to Buy/Acquire in their areas, with Denbigh and Flintshire currently preparing their applications.

Once the Welsh Government has ended the Right to Buy/Acquire, it is likely that there will be of grace period of up to two years during which tenants can continue to apply for the Right to Buy or Right to Acquire on their home.

It is envisaged that many properties will be sold during this lengthy process, the Welsh Government has indicated that applications to suspend the Right to Buy/Acquire would still be welcomed during this period.

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