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More than 900 Norwich council homes lost because of Right To Buy, say City Hall leaders

PUBLISHED: 06:20 05 February 2018 | UPDATED: 17:12 05 February 2018

Norwich City Council leader Alan Waters and deputy leader Gail Harris at the Goldsmith Street site in Norwich, where more than 100 homes, which will be available for social rent, are being built. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich City Council leader Alan Waters and deputy leader Gail Harris at the Goldsmith Street site in Norwich, where more than 100 homes, which will be available for social rent, are being built. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

Norwich has missed out on £55m and lost more than 900 council homes because of the government’s Right To Buy scheme, council leaders have said.

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith. Pic: Eliza Boo Photography.Norwich North MP Chloe Smith. Pic: Eliza Boo Photography.

And Labour-led Norwich City Council is calling for a review of the scheme, which enables council tenants to buy local authority homes at a discount.

Gail Harris, deputy leader at City Hall, said 926 council homes had been sold since 2010. The homes, valued at £109.5m, were sold for £55m less than the market value, because of discounts.

Mrs Harris said that could have paid for 20 new homes a year or for new bathrooms or kitchens for all council tenants.

She said the Right To Buy scheme, which the government is looking to extend to more housing association tenants, was “devastating” council housing.

She said: “Whilst acknowledging the aspiration of some residents to own their own home, there are a significant number of Right To Buy properties which have gone on to become private rented properties with the owner becoming a landlord – this means that there are those who are merely treating this scheme as an investment opportunity and that cannot be right.

“Our council housing stock is a valuable but dwindling resource and that means there are longer waiting times for people in need. Figures from across the country show that only one new property is being built for every five sold under Right To Buy.”

She said a Labour government would suspend the programme and build new council homes.

But, in the meantime, she called on the Conservatives to at least review the scheme.

She suggested councils should be given flexibility to opt in or out or to keep 100pc of receipts.

But Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said: “Labour isn’t in government and isn’t fit to be - they’re unqualified and extreme and their sums don’t add up.

“I fear this particular suggestion is just looking back to the past for the hard left. Right to Buy is helping people in Norwich and across Britain get on the housing ladder and helping people take pride in their home and their street.

“I know many constituents who are keen for it to be extended to housing associations - and Labour at City Hall would block their aspiration.”

What is Right To Buy?

Right to Buy allows most council tenants to buy their council homes at a discount.

The maximum discount people can get, outside of London, is £78,600, which is based on the type of property, its value and how long people have been tenants with a public sector landlord.

It was introduced under Margaret Thatcher in 1980 to create what she described as a “property-owning democracy”, but has been controversial ever since.

Supporters say it gave aspirational working class people the chance to own their own homes, but critics say it has contributed to the housing crisis by distorting house prices.

It has also been criticised for reducing the number of council houses which are available, but the government has stood by it and plans to extend the right to buy to housing association tenants.

Councils are allowed to use about a third of the money from sales, with the rest going to the Treasury.

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