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Raab blames councils for missing right-to-buy replacement target

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Housing minister Dominic Raab has blamed councils for the government missing its target of replacing every council house sold through the right-to-buy.

However, Mr Raab has acknowledged “there is a case for greater flexibility on the use” of right-to-buy receipts and this will be considered as part of the social housing green paper.

Statistics released by the Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government today showed 15,981 homes had either been started or acquired as replacements for properties sold through the right-to-buy scheme since the start of 2012-13 and the third quarter of 2017-18. However, the ministry admitted that it was “falling short of the three year replacement commitment” by failing to hit a figure of 17,072 replacement homes.

While 83,272 homes have been sold since the right-to-buy was “reinvigorated” under David Cameron in 2012, councils have up to three years to start work on building or acquiring a replacement.

In a written ministerial statement this afternoon, Mr Raab said: “The government is committed to a step change in council house building. However, statistics released today show that while the number of homes available for social rent has increased, some local authorities have not been building enough right-to-buy replacements to match the pace of their sales. It is clear that local authorities need to increase their rate of delivery of new homes.”

Mr Raab said chancellor Philip Hammond’s pledge to increase the housing revenue account borrowing cap for councils by £1bn would help to “support” those efforts. However, LGC previously reported how the Treasury had set aside a mere £880m of funding because it expects too few applications from councils to raise their borrowing caps.

The minister also pointed to the fact councils and housing associations can bid for a share of the £9bn affordable homes programme, which includes up to £2bn for homes for social rent.

However, LGC previously reported how it is unlikely to deliver the 25,000 homes the Conservatives claimed the money could deliver while most councils were unlikely to bid for a share of the fund as it would not be worth their time and energy.

“As well as increasing investment in new social housing, we remain committed to the right-to-buy, helping people into home ownership and replacing the homes sold,” said Mr Raab.

He reiterated the fact the government will be piloting the right-to-buy for housing association tenants in the Midlands this year, and added: “We have engaged with local authorities to get a better understanding of the barriers to delivering new homes.

“To help councils build more homes, we believe there is a case for greater flexibility on the use of receipts from right-to-buy sales.

“We will consult further with the sector on providing greater flexibility around how local authorities can use their right-to-buy receipts, and how to ensure that we continue to support local authorities to build more council homes. We will consider social housing issues as part of our work on the forthcoming green paper.”

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