The Prime Minister’s speech attempting to ‘move on’ from Partygate and the challenge by Tory MPs to his Leadership is a missed opportunity to tackle Oldham’s housing crisis according to Oldham Labour. New policies announced today are expected to make no real difference to thousands of Oldhamers living in overcrowded or unfit homes, or who have no home at all. Extending the Right to Buy (RTB) to Housing Association tenants has been Tory policy since 2015, repeated in 2019 when the Tories said they would set up a voluntary scheme and evaluate long running pilots. The report in 2021 showed that extending RTB wasn’t popular and despite claims to the contrary, Housing Associations had not been able to replace those homes sold. The pilot was also very expensive – the Government spent an average of £65,390 subsidising the sale of each house.
Councillor Amanda Chadderton said ‘Extending the Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants does nothing to help people in housing need in Oldham. More than that, it makes matters worse as only one tenth of the homes sold under Right to Buy have been replaced. A national roll out would cost £14.6 billion over 10 years, money I think would be better spent on building new social homes. What Oldham needs is subsidy from Homes England to help us provide the homes people need. Oldham Council is using the Flexible Housing Fund and Housing Revenue Account balances to start a building programme but to provide the 6,000 homes for families on the Housing Register we need Homes England and the Government to step up.’
The National Housing Federation which represents Housing Associations echoes concerns about housing supply. NHF Chief Executive Kate Henderson said “our red line’ for participation in the pilot ‘being that every single social home sold would be replaced”.
But she said: “Recent pilots have demonstrated how difficult this is to achieve, as there is not enough money from sales to build new social homes.”
Councillor Chadderton added ‘ The Government claims proposals in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will help us to get homes built more quickly but I can’t see anything there that will deliver truly affordable homes in Oldham. We have put forward sound proposals in Places for Everyone to deliver Government Housing targets. The barrier isn’t the planning system but funding for new homes – receipts from Right to Buy have never covered rebuild costs for new homes and this is even more difficult in a low house price area like Oldham. I’m really concerned that the Government comes up with gimmicks like tweaking benefits to count as income for mortgages rather than focusing on the real issues. To quote a previous Oldham MP, “Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job”’.