‘Desperate need’ for social housing in Sheffield as hundreds buy their council homes

Sheffield Council sold ten for every 1,000 homes it owned between April 2016 and March 2017.
Sheffield Council sold ten for every 1,000 homes it owned between April 2016 and March 2017.

More than 380 tenants bought their Sheffield Council home in the last year prompting claims there was a ‘desperate need’ to build more affordable homes in the city.

Figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government showed the local authority sold 384 council houses under the Right to Buy scheme between April 2016 and March 2017, up from 104 five years earlier.

The Right to Buy scheme was implemented in 1980 by the Conservative government with the aim of helping council house tenants buy their rented homes at a discount.

The figures meant that Sheffield told ten for every 1,000 houses owned by the council in the 12-month period – above the national average of eight for every 1,000.

But the Local Government Association warned the figures could lead to a lack of social housing across the country.

Judith Blake, a LGA housing spokesperson, said: “The loss of social housing means that we are spending more and more on housing benefit to supplement expensive rents instead of investing in genuinely affordable homes.

"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.

"We have long called for reforms to Right to Buy in order to allow councils to build more homes to set discounts locally and to keep 100 per cent of receipts from homes sold."

This month, the Government has started a £200 million pilot scheme in the Midlands to extend Right to Buy to all tenants of housing associations.

Up to now, these tenants could buy under the Right to Buy scheme only if the home was owned by the council at the time they moved in.

Housing association tenants can also apply for a different scheme called Right to Acquire, which allows them to purchase the dwelling at a smaller discount.

But Wath-upon-Deane MP John Healey, the shadow housing secretary, called the scheme in the Midlands ‘wasteful’.

He said: "By expanding this policy, the Tories are only going to make the housing crisis worse."

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, said: "This pilot represents the first large-scale test of the new settlement and we now want to work with tenants, housing associations and the Government to get it right.

"The pilot will be a success only if the application process is as smooth as possible for tenants and if a replacement affordable home is built for every one that is sold."

Nationally, more than 29,000 tenants applied to buy a home from the social housing stock, which includes council and housing association properties.

Just 18,100 of them were able to complete the purchase.

For those buying from a local authority, the average price was £82,000, a 43 per cent discount on the market value.

When the seller was a housing association, the sale price was £57,210, with a discount of 49 per cent.

Coun Jim Steinke, Sheffield Council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety, said: “In 2016/17 384 council homes were bought by tenants under the Right to Buy scheme. That’s just under 9.6 homes out of every 1,000 of our housing stock

“Activity in the first five months of this year shows that projected sales will be around 330, which is 8.3 homes out of every 1,000.

“The Right to Buy is a national government scheme for local authorities. The Government offers discounts to buyers under this scheme. Other than there being a higher maximum discount in London, the same criteria applies throughout the country.”

For more information about the Right to Buy scheme in Sheffield visit www.sheffield.gov.uk/home/council-housing/right-to-buy.