Council home sales surge

Changes to the rules mean more people will be eligible to buy their council house.
Changes to the rules mean more people will be eligible to buy their council house.

There has been a sharp increase in the number of Kirklees tenants wanting to buy their council homes.

Our district recorded 110 sales in 2012/2013 – 205 per cent more than the previous year.

Kirklees Council has seen one of the largest increases in people taking advantage of Right to Buy, the scheme introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

But a Kirklees Cabinet member with responsibility for housing is concerned the trend is depriving other people the chance of a home.

Coun Cathy Scott said: “This is disrupting the social housing stock. There are 17,000 people on the council’s waiting list. If we keep having to advertise council houses for sale, there won’t be any left.”

In the 12 months to April, 5,942 properties in England were sold to tenants, up from 2,638 the year before and the highest figure since 2007.

This followed the government’s decision to increase the discounts available to tenants to a maximum of £75,000, making it easier for them to get on the property ladder.

Coun Scott said offering large loans would encourage people to buy homes that they could not afford. “These people will lose their homes and will return to social homes again,” she said. “It’s a vicious circle.”

Housing minister Mark Prisk said the government was determined to help people who work hard and want to get on.

He said: “I’m delighted that so many tenants are choosing to seize the opportunity to get on the property ladder through the reinvigorated Right to Buy.

“As a government we are determined to ensure that whoever you are – whether a prospective first time buyer, an existing homeowner or a social tenant – if you work hard and want to get on, we will support you to move up the property ladder.”

Coun Scott said she wanted people to be able to progress but said the council needed to be able to offer social housing to those in need.

But the government is pressing ahead with measures designed to make it even quicker for tenants to buy their council homes.

Currently, tenants need to have lived in their council property for at least five years before they are eligible, but under measures announced in the Queen’s Speech, this will be reduced to three years, significantly increasing the numbers of people able to take up the offer.