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London targets landlords in council house buy-back scheme

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London is to offer to buy back council homes bought by individuals under the Right to Buy programme. Many of the intended vendors will be private landlords.

The move, designed to boost the supply of London council homes, was announced by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan this week.  His new Right to Buy-back fund will give boroughs the means to purchase former council homes that will then be let at social rent levels or used as accommodation for homeless families

‘While the number of Right to Buy sales has been declining in recent years, the policy continues to have a negative impact on the overall number of council homes in London’, said the Mayor’s Office. ‘It also doesn’t appear to be fulfilling its original mandate of boosting owner occupation, with four in ten now rented on the private market – sometimes back to the very council that was forced to sell the home in order to house homeless families’.

The logic is that, ‘with more and more small landlords selling or planning to sell their properties due to changes in tax laws, the Mayor believes it would be far better for these homes to be sold back to the council than to larger private landlords’. All homes purchased through this scheme must meet the Government’s Decent Homes Standard.

‘For more than 40 years, London’s precious council homes have been disappearing into the private sector, often never to be replaced. It’s time for that to change’, said Khan.

‘We’re not only helping councils to build thousands of new council homes, but we’re giving them the resources to buy back former council homes through our Right to Buy-back scheme. In the midst of a housing affordability crisis it feels grossly unfair and unjust that more than four in ten council homes sold through the Right to Buy in London are now in the hands of private landlords. These were, after all, homes built for the public good’.

The process has already started. Camden Council leader, George Gould said that since July 2019, Camden had repurchased 61 former council properties. ‘We plan to purchase a further 80 through £35m of additional investment into our Temporary Accommodation Purchase Programme.

‘We welcome the Mayor’s announcement and look forward to working with the Mayor as other boroughs join Camden in reclaiming decades of lost social housing for Londoners’.