Housing sell-offs ‘will lead to social cleansing’

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THOUSANDS OF hard-pressed families will be forced out of parts of the region and into the unstable and expensive world of private renting if local authorities have to sell off their most valuable homes, claim campaigners.

Local authorities across Yorkshire and the Humber, already struggling to meet the demand for affordable housing, have warned that they will be unable to replace the number of homes they stand to lose in an extension of the Right to Buy scheme.

Critics have cast doubt over the Government’s assurances that requiring a replacement to be built, the scheme will, in effect, double the number of homes available and raise the proportion of homeowners in England.

Analysis from Shelter suggests that in Harrogate, for example, extending Right to Buy and will lead to the forced sale of 1,127 houses.

Calls to scrap new Right to Buy laws

Housing officers have proposed to spend £1m of the £1.9m raised through the sale of local authority homes to purchase up to ten homes in the district – but critics have cast doubt over how this will be done when the average house price is £271,935 and currently there are only three apartments on the market for less than £100,000 which are not retirement properties.

And a report published by the borough council in August warned cabinet members it may have to resort to buying back former council-owned homes previously sold through Right to Buy.

In York, where 1,432 homes are valued above the Government’s threshold, city councillors have previously tried to opt out of the scheme.

The call for exemptions in certain parts of England has been supported by the Rural Housing Alliance and Rural Services Network.

The organisations shared “deep concern” over the potential impacts on the existing and future supply of rural affordable housing.

A spokesman told The Yorkshire Post: “There is already a severe lack of affordable housing in rural areas, with those dependent on local incomes unable to afford to buy in the market and a declining availability of rented affordable homes.

The extension of the Right to Buy would make this situation very much worse by reducing current supply and future delivery.

“In so doing it will remove the opportunity for those on low incomes to live in rural areas, undermining the social and economic viability of rural communities, resulting in the outcome this Government has stated it seeks to avoid, the exile of these people from their families, roots, shared history and each other.”

Leeds stands to be hardest-hit in the region, as the scheme could lead to the forced sale of 3,455 local authority-owned properties.

Coun Richard Lewis, executive member for regeneration at Leeds Council, said: “Extending the Right to Buy for housing associations is bad enough, but forcing councils to sell even more homes really is a double whammy.

In Leeds, the average rent for a council house is £74.38 a week. The Local Housing Allowance –the maximum amount of rent the council will pay for a privately rented home is £122.36 a week for a two-bedroom home in the city.

“We will have to pay nearly £50 over the odds for exactly the same home,” said Coun Lewis.

“The working tenant getting no housing benefit will have to pay more – pushing them further towards poverty just to have a roof over their head.

“Indeed, the average weekly market rent in high value areas of Leeds is £229 a week.

“It is £155 a week in mid-market areas, more than double the council’s average rent.

“Council and housing association properties are often the only types of homes within reach for young people in higher value areas – taking these away is social cleansing.”

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