The government has 'stolen' £90m of revenue from Right to Buy sales in London, according to London Assembly Member Tom Copley.
A letter from Housing Minister Brandon Lewis in March confirmed that between 2012 and 2014, just over £90m was paid to the Treasury by London boroughs from sales of former council homes under the Right to Buy scheme. Total sales in the capital in this period amounted to £412m. So? Well, Labour housing spokesman Copley says that money should have been funnelled straight back into building affordable housing — instead it went into what Lewis describes as a "general pot".
When the previous government announced plans for a "revitalised" (their words) Right to Buy, back in December 2011, we were promised:
"Ministers are committed to ensuring that there is no reduction in the number of affordable homes — so for the first time any additional home bought under the scheme will lead directly to the provision of a new affordable home for rent on a one-to-one basis."
Shelter calculates that since that commitment was made, 6,973 social rented homes have been sold under Right to Buy in London, but only 825 replacements (at 'affordable rent'; see our previous complaints about that particular misnomer) have been started or bought.
"Despite promising that Right to Buy would result in a new home for each one sold the last government effectively stole £90m which was meant to be spent on new homes for the capital. As a result many councils are finding it impossible to replace their lost homes. London’s housing market is already in crisis, diverting money which was meant to be reinvested in new homes is a total betrayal."
Of course, building homes is more complicated than just 'having the cash', and the money that was retained by councils clearly hasn't come close to narrowing the replacement gap. However, we agree with Copley that there's a principle at stake here and echo the final line in his latest letter to Brandon Lewis: "we'd like the money back".