Right to Buy on target, but one in six sold off is replaced

21 September 2016

“The former Prime Minister, the Right Honourable  Member for Witney promised that there would be a one-for-one replacement for every council house that is sold under Right to Buy. Sadly, the reality is there is only one for every five that are sold.”

Jeremy Corbyn, 7 September 2016

“I have to say to the Right Honourable Gentleman that he is wrong about the figures on council houses. We have delivered on the one-for-one replacement under Right to Buy”

Theresa May, 7 September 2016

Theresa May is correct to say that the government is meeting its own target for building new council houses to replace those sold by right to buy.

And, confusingly, Jeremy Corbyn is also about right to say that only one in five council houses that are being sold off are being replaced.

The misunderstanding is about what the government’s one-for-one replacement target actually means.

The government didn’t commit to replacing every home sold under the Right to Buy scheme, only the extra sales which have been created by recent government policies.

Right to Buy has been around since the 1980s, but in 2012 the government aimed to ‘reinvigorate’ the policy by making bigger discounts available for council housing tenants who wanted to buy their own home.

The government has pledged to replace homes sold under the scheme on a one for one basis. The rule is that local authorities or housing associations have three years to start building a replacement for each one sold.

But here’s the catch: the pledge only covered additional homes sold under the new discounts—over and above the sales they predicted would happen without the new policy.

The government is meeting that target at the moment, although some bodies have expressed concerns about whether it will be able to do so in the future.

All the homes sold three years ago are being replaced. But the National Audit Office has said there would need to be a five-fold increase in the number of houses being started by 2017/18, to replace the number of additional homes sold in 2014/15.

The House of Commons Library has discussed in more detail how the number of homes being made available needs to increase.

Labour told us Mr Corbyn’s figures came via research from the Local Government Association, which uses the latest figures on Right to Buy. That research actually shows a slightly larger disparity than the one he quoted: about six times as many homes sold under Right to Buy last year as were started, and also six times as many in total since 2012/13.

If the government wants to keep meeting the target, it needs to step up the number of houses being built.

Update 21 September 2016

We've removed a sentence that said when a council house is sold, that means one fewer for everyone else. This over-simplified the issue.

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