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‘Give us the cash to build more council homes’ Tower Hamlets mayor urges government

PUBLISHED: 12:28 04 December 2018 | UPDATED: 12:38 04 December 2018

1,000 Tower Hamlets council homes sold under government's Right to Buy scheme since 2013. Picture: LBTH

1,000 Tower Hamlets council homes sold under government's Right to Buy scheme since 2013. Picture: LBTH

LBTH

A thousand council homes have been lost in the past eight years because of the government’s ‘right to buy’ scheme for sitting tenants in part of east London with 19,000 families on the housing waiting list, latest Tower Hamlets figures reveal.

Mayor Biggs... Mayor Biggs... "We have 19,000 families on the waiting list, so loss of council homes needs to be replaced." Picture: LBTH

Now the Mayor is calling for greater freedom to spend the revenue from house sales to build new dwellings to replace them and ease the waiting list.

Government rules mean the council can only spend 30 per cent of the £113m raised from house sales since 2013 on new building schemes and can’t even use it to top up the recent £13m from the GLA.

“I want the government to free our hand to let us spend that revenue for building council homes,” Mayor John Biggs insists.

“We have 19,000 families on the waiting list, so any loss of council homes needs to be replaced—but government restrictions make this difficult.”

Tower Hamlets wants to build more schemes like Watts Grove opened in Bow Common in 2017. Picture: LBTHTower Hamlets wants to build more schemes like Watts Grove opened in Bow Common in 2017. Picture: LBTH

Current rules mean the council has to stump up the remaining 70pc when using the house sale income and only has a window of three years to spend it.

That means finding £264m out of the town hall coffers to make up the shortfall.

Cllr Rachel Blake, who is responsible in the cabinet for regeneration, said: “Reforming the bizarre ‘right to buy’ rules is critical to getting much-needed funds, because losing council homes at this rate means we’re running to stand still.”

The council also faces a further spending target of £144m by March and £376m by 2022 to make sure it doesn’t lose those house sale revenues.

An average of 250 tenants a year are opting to purchase their homes under the government’s ‘right to buy’.

But many then rent them out privately and move away, effectively becoming absentee landlords which takes those properties out of the public housing pool.

The government now plans to relax the time restriction on spending the house sale revenue and raise the 30pc cap to 50pc, which has been cautiously welcomed at the town hall.

But the mayor wants Whitehall to let the council spend all the house sale cash to build 2,000 new homes to reduce the waiting list.

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