New social homes could be sold off before occupancy under government plans

New council homes in Dunlock Mews

New council homes in Dunlock Mews - Credit: Archant

More than 700 new council homes in Hackney could be sold off as soon as they are built and before anyone has lived in them, the local authority has warned.

Cllr Philip Glanville

Cllr Philip Glanville - Credit: Archant

The government’s Housing and Planning Bill is currently being debated in Parliament, and proposes enabling housing association tenants to exercise a ‘right to buy’ their own home with discounts of over £103,000.

The ‘forced sales’ policy was suggested in a report by right-of-centre think tank Policy Exchange, which proposed that housing associations be reimbursed for the discounts by councils being forced to sell ‘high value’ council homes when they become vacant.

Since the Gazette reported on the proposals in July, the government has still not specified what value homes would have to be worth in the forced sale proposals.

Hackney is the 11th most deprived borough in the country, but property values are at an all time high with most of the deprived wards sited on the City fringe where many of these high value council homes are now situated.

At the time, the council’s housing chief Philip Glanville said the proposals had “dropped a bomb right in the middle of our plans” for social housing.

Hackney Council has so far built 221 new homes for social renting as part of a borough-wide programme to build more than 2,760 over the next 10 years.

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This includes a further 700 new council homes for social renting, 500 for shared ownership, and the rest needed for private sale to pay for everything in the absence of government funding.

Cllr Glanville said: “Practically all newly-built homes in Hackney are high value when compared with existing properties, so we need assurance from the government that newly-built council homes on regeneration estates would be exempt, otherwise they would be sold as soon as we have finished building them.”

“In Hackney these high value homes can be £450,000 two-bedroom flats on council estates - not just houses in places like Kensington, Islington or Stoke Newington.

“That’s the effect of the overheated London property market.”

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government could still not confirm the “high value threshold”.

She said that councils “should manage their housing stock effectively”, adding: “That’s why the Housing Bill ensures the sale of empty high value council assets which will be reinvested in building of new homes that better meet local needs.

“More council housing has been built since 2010 than in the previous 13 years.”