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The Housing Forum has today published a new report into ways to reform the Right to Buy system has called for a reduction in the discounts available for council tenants buying their own home, after finding that homes in weaker markets have been sold for as little as £15,000.

The report also calls for an end of the Right to Buy on newbuild homes, and the introduction of a ‘Buyers’ Charter’ to prevent apparent unfairness in and abuse of the system.

The Right to Buy gives council tenants the right to purchase the home they are currently renting from a local authority at a discount. Tenants are eligible to purchase after they have been a social tenant for three years, and the discounts go up for each year they are a tenant, to a maximum of 70% of the property value, capped at £96,000 (or £127,900 in London).

The report identifies three problems with Right to Buy.

-The selling of council homes has increased in the past ten years, with 113,000 homes sold in this time, and some councils losing as much as 10% of their stock. At the same time, the number of households in temporary accommodation has doubled to over 100,000.

-There is apparent abuse in the system, and unfairness. Often tenants bought properties with gifts or loans from other family members, or bought their homes having been in arrears or on benefits shortly before. And some homes were sold, only to be let out on the private market shortly after.

-The threat of homes being bought makes councils more wary of building new homes, with most council homes being sold at a loss due to the high discounts mandated. One council has calculated that they need to sell six homes via the Right to Buy to create enough funding to build one new one.

In response to these findings, The Housing Forum has recommended a number of reforms including a ‘Buyers Charter’ for those buying council homes, removing the Right to Buy from newbuild homes, and ensuring that councils receive the full value of Right to Buy sales.   

This Buyers’ Charter would include the following provisions:

-Covenants should be placed on sales to either prevent the property from being let out, or alternatively to require them to be offered to the council to let, if they are not being used for owner-occupation.

-Discounts on a home should be reduced to no more than 20% of its value.  

-The length of residency required to purchase should be increased to at least 5 years.  

-The exemption criteria should be modernised to include larger homes and those designed for specialist needs.

-The details of the ‘Buyers Charter’ should be devolved to local councils.

Launching the report, Director of Policy & Public Affairs, Anna Clarke, said:

Our members across the housing sector work hard to increase the supply of affordable housing and know how badly this is needed. Forcing councils to sell off their housing at prices much lower than it costs to rebuild it leaves them fighting an uphill battle.

Many councils are keen to build new council homes – but they’re put off doing so by the risk of having to sell their new homes off as fast as they can build them.

We hope that the proposals set out here will provide some ideas for ways that the Right to Buy could be reformed to give councils the confidence to invest in new homes, as well as addressing some of the wider concerns around fairness.

For comments please contact: Anna Clarke, Director of Policy and Public Affairs, 07442 405513 or

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