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Scrap the ‘dark cloud’ of Right to Buy council homes, George Clarke tells MPs

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TV celebrity architect George Clarke has told MPs the current Right to Buy rules allowing residents to buy their council house at a discount should be scrapped on all new homes built by local authorities

The architect and Amazing Spaces presenter told the housing select committee on Monday (9 March) that councils were ‘desperate to build again’ but had a ‘virtually impossible job with Right to Buy existing in the form that it is’.

When council house tenants buy their home, a local authority is currently only allowed to keep a third of the receipts – with the rest sent to HM Treasury.

Clarke said Right to Buy should be reformed so money raised through the sale of existing homes is kept by local councils, and new homes built by councils should be excluded from the scheme. 

‘This money is taken away from local need and taken away from council budgets: councils have less and less money to replace any housing which has been sold off,’ Clarke said.

‘If the treasury is taking a percentage of the receipt … councils won’t build, so the treasury won’t get those receipts either. There is a dark cloud hanging over council house-building.’

The presenter said the discount offered through Right to Buy was ‘way too big’, meaning councils would still struggle to replace homes with 100 per cent of receipt money. This is why the scheme should be abolished in future, he said. 

But Clarke explained it would be unfair to scrap the scheme for existing homes, as some tenants might have lived in their home for 20 years with the knowledge Right to Buy would one day be available to them.

Clarke is currently campaigning for the UK to replenish its social housing stock by building 100,000 social homes a year for the next three decades.

Last year Clarke announced he was creating a degree in housing design run by Birmingham City University, with its first students set to start this year. Clarke conducts workshops as part of the three-year Design for Future Living course, along with other members of his Ministry of Building Innovation + Education (Mobie) charity.

He told MPs this week that the government was ‘obsessed by home ownership,’ adding: ‘If all of us had a safe, stable and affordable home, I wouldn’t be sitting here now.’

Clarke also acknowledged his vision for a long-term, cross-party plan would have up-front costs but said that the £9 billion of housing benefit paid to private landlords every year could eventually be recouped.

The former FaulknerBrowns architect was talking to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee as part of its ongoing inquiry into the long-term delivery of social and affordable rented housing.


Readers' comments (3)

  • 100% seconded, George

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  • Well said George! But I disagree on the advised delay. If not now then when? In Scotland & Wales they scrapped R.toB. several years ago. Also needed are: scrub the bedroom tax, secure tenancies in the private sector and equalisation of VAT across new-build and refurb.

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  • Clare Richards

    I'm delighted that George is using his profile in this way. I also agree with Kate's comments above. We need to go further and we need to do it now.

    As a documentary filmmaker, I witnessed the early impact on housing estates from Peterlee to Thetford of Maggie Thatcher's Right to Buy 'initiative' and its skewed ideologies. It has been a growing disaster for local social housing ever since and should not have been extended to Housing Associations. As an architect I've tried to make a noise about it at every opportunity.

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