Proposal Made to Permanently Scrap Council House Sales

Wandsworth considering completely ending policy following earlier suspension

Wandsworth Town Hall. Picture: Google Streetview

Wandsworth Council, previously known as Margaret Thatcher’s favourite, has revealed plans to stop selling off council homes in a landmark move. The Labour-run borough suspended sales after taking over from the Conservatives for the first time in 44 years in May – and officers are now recommending the policy is scrapped completely.

The move aims to prevent the loss of any more council homes with gardens and ground floors – required by some families and disabled people. The authority only has 291 acquired homes left and sold off more than 20,000 social homes under the previous administration. There are more than 11,000 locals on the housing waiting list.

The authority previously used receipts from empty council home sales to acquire cheaper market homes. This led to 35 extra homes being bought between 2015 and 2022 but to the replacement of houses with flats – often in more deprived areas.

A council report says the change will ultimately cut the number of homes available for letting but that empty council homes can be given to new families immediately, while selling them off takes longer. It says, “This will be of immediate benefit for those on the council’s queues awaiting a housing solution.”

But Conservative councillors hit out at the plans at a housing committee meeting on 16 November over concerns the move will make housing queues longer.

Conservative councillor Kim Caddy said, “You could choose to use the capital receipts to buy properties on the ground floor and I’m sure that the people who are buying properties on behalf of the council are looking strategically at what properties they need to buy.”

Labour councillor Aydin Dikerdem, cabinet member for housing, said the council often buys back homes on estates so it’s hard to get bigger homes with ground floors. He said families with lots of kids will be in homes with gardens instead of flats under the plans.

Councillor Dikerdem said the homes the authority could buy back with the number of council homes left is now so low and the advantages small compared to the number of families who would benefit from homes with ground floors and gardens. He said the authority is prioritising increasing its social housing stock in all other areas.

He said, “If we just go off of we’re going to sell things because they’re valuable then we’re destroying an asset base for future generations – future generations that may need these properties, that we know need these properties because we know what the waiting list looks like.”

The finance committee is set to vote on the plans later this month. Council homes would only be sold in exceptional circumstances if the move is approved, likely when repairs cost more than 25 per cent of the value of the home.

Charlotte Lilywhite - Local Democracy Reporter

November 18, 2022