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Right-to-buy reforms mooted but housing green paper panned

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The government is proposing to make it easier for councils to replace homes sold under the right-to-buy as it launches a range of measures as part of the eagerly anticipated publication of the social housing green paper today.

In a separate move to the green paper, which has received criticism for not going far enough, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government is to launch a consultation into how councils spend the money from right-to-buy sales. This will set out proposals to make it easier for councils to replace properties sold through the scheme and build affordable homes, while the requirement to sell off higher value properties will be dropped.

Among a range of proposals contained in the social housing green paper itself, due to be published in full later today, are proposals to give tenants new powers to hold their landlords to account and strengthen the social housing regulator to give it “sharper teeth”.

Landlord performance indicators and league tables will also be introduced in a bid to “ensure residents are treated with dignity and respect”.

Meanwhile, councils are to continue to be given choice over their use of fixed term tenancies.

The publication of the green paper, delayed after passing through the hands of three housing ministers, follows a consultation with 8,000 tenants following the Grenfell Tower disaster last year.

Housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire said building high quality, well-managed social housing is “a core priority” for the government.

He said: “Our green paper offers a landmark opportunity for major reform to improve fairness, quality and safety for residents living in social housing across the country.

“Regardless of whether you own your home or rent, residents deserve security, dignity and the opportunities to build a better life.”

The Local Government Association responded by saying the green paper proposals do not go far enough and will not meet the “huge and immediate need for more genuinely affordable homes”.

LGA housing spokesperson Judith Blake (Lab) said the decline in social housing means councils were spending increasing amounts on housing benefit to pay expensive rents, rather than investing in new homes.

She added: “The government must go beyond the limited measures announced so far, scrap the housing borrowing cap, and enable all councils, across the country, to borrow to build once more.

“This would trigger the renaissance in council house-building which will help people to access genuinely affordable housing.

“We have long called for reforms to right-to-buy in order to allow councils to build more homes, and there are some positive signs in the consultation. But we must go much further so that councils can deliver the affordable homes that our residents need and deserve, including allowing councils to set discounts locally and to keep 100% of receipts from homes sold.”

Chartered Institute of Housing deputy chief executive Gavin Smart called on the government to rebalance the £53m funding allocated for housing to ensure investment in affordable homes is higher than the 21% current earmarked.

He added: “The green paper rightly recognises the importance of new supply but we are concerned that the plans for new affordable homes are not ambitious enough.”

Campbell Robb, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “Whilst the plans to empower tenants and give them a real voice are very welcome the lack of concrete plans to build significantly more truly affordable homes risks failing a generation. Against a back drop of rising foodbank use, families on low incomes will continue to face impossible choices about whether to pay the rent or put food on the table.

“We urge the government to invest in 80,000 genuinely affordable homes a year at the next spending review to put things right.”

John Healey, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, called the green paper a “pitiful document” which showed the government “has run out of ideas on housing”. He added: “Nothing in this green paper measures up to the scale of the housing crisis.

“The number of new social rented homes is at a record low but there is no new money to increase supply, and ministers are still preventing local authorities run by all parties from building the council homes their communities need.”



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