Almost half of the former council houses sold by Ealing Council are now let by private landlords.
Under the right to buy scheme, introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1980, Ealing Council has sold 12,893 council houses, of which 41.42 per cent are believed to be let by landlords in the private sector.
Ealing has the fourth highest proportion of ex-council houses let in the private sector in London, compared to Brent which at 24.94 percent is the lowest. The London average is 36 per cent.
The findings have been published by London assembly member Tom Copley who calls the Right to Buy Scheme a ‘disaster’. A lack of council housing in the borough means many would-be council tenants have been forcedinto private sector homes.
The consequence of this, Mr Copley argues is that ‘taxpayers are charged more to subsidise higher private rents’.
More than 22,600 housing benefit claimants have been forced into the private sector in Ealing because of a lack of council housing. This costs an extra £1.3million per week. It costs an average of £162,449 to build a house in London, so the extra money being spent could pay for about eight more council houses to be built per week.
The difference between the average weekly council rent, and the average weekly rent in the private sector in Ealing is £56.78. Payments to the private rented sector are now the highest expenditure of housing benefits.
Mr Copley calls housing ‘the greatest challenge facing London government’, and ‘a significant threat to the economic competitiveness of the capital’.
A spokeswoman for Ealing Council, said: “Ealing has a brilliant property market, there are lots of reasons behind the shortage of housing in Ealing.”
She stressed the Right to Buy scheme was not solely to blame for the shortage, but following the sale of council houses under the Right to Buy scheme ‘councils across the UK were restricted [in building new council houses] and very few houses were built’. A change in government legislation in 2009 meant that councils could start building council housing again.
Since 2010 the council has built 80 properties, with 130 planned for the next two years, The spokeswoman added: “We’re working on a range of initiatives to increase the amount of affordable housing available in the borough. This includes our regeneration of the Copley Close estate, where we are refurbishing more than 550 existing homes, and building 205 new homes, which will be available as affordable housing for council tenants.”
Mr Copley said the Right to Buy Scheme should be reformed by allowing councils to refuse to sell council houses, making them replace any houses they do sell, stopping these houses from being let and retaining an equity stake in the council houses after they are sold.