£6 billion in Right to Buy discounts threaten future of scheme

Almost £6 billion has been given out in discounts through the Right to Buy (RTB) scheme since the size of the discount was increased in 2012, new analysis by the Local Government Association reveals.

The LGA, which represents more than 350 councils in England and Wales, warns that the scheme is becoming unsustainable, with councils struggling to rebuild homes as quickly as they are being sold.

The size of the discounts available were increased in April 2012, and as a result the average discount has increased by 150 per cent to more than £67,000 in 2020/21. At the same time, this has led to a quadrupling in the number of Right to Buy Sales.

Councils are also not able to keep all of the money from RTB sales. This means that they have only been able to replace around a third of homes sold since 2012, impacting on their ability to provide housing for homeless and vulnerable families.

While Right to Buy has helped many families get on the housing ladder, the LGA said the scheme faces an uncertain future unless councils are given the flexibility to set discounts locally and retain 100 per cent of sales receipts to fund the replacement of homes sold off under the scheme.

Councils also need to be able to combine RTB receipts with government grant funding, such as the Affordable Homes Programme, and transfer funding from sales to ALMOs or housing companies to give them greater flexibility over how new council housing is delivered.

Cllr David Renard, housing spokesperson for the LGA, said:

“Councils want to urgently address the number of people on waiting lists for a council home and stuck in temporary accommodation. At a time of an escalating cost of living crisis, we urgently need to build more council homes, not have less.

“It is becoming impossible for councils to replace homes as quickly as they’re being sold and they are increasingly having to do so with far less money than the property sells for because of discounts being offered.

“Every home sold that isn’t replaced risks pushing more families into the private rented sector, driving up housing benefit spending and rents and exacerbating our homelessness crisis.

“Right to Buy continues to enable many families to achieve their dream of getting on the housing ladder and owning their own home. However, without reform of the scheme, future generations will not enjoy the same opportunity.”

Notes to editors

Right to Buy statistics

LGA analysis reveals:

  • In 2011/12, the average discount for a council tenant purchasing under RTB was £26,690 – around 27 per cent of average property value – rising to £67,050 – 42 per cent of property value – in 2020/21
  • Since 2012, councils have sold 96,126 homes under the Right to Buy Scheme and started building 32,901 homes. Assuming all starts are completed this would equal a loss of around 63,225 social rented homes.

Right to Buy enables most council tenants to buy their council home at a hefty discount of up to £87,200 (£116,200 in London) and on top of this councils also have to return a proportion of the remaining money from the Right to Buy sale to the Treasury.

The Government also announced a proposed extension of the scheme in May, which would mean 2.5 million housing association tenants would also be able to access discounts when purchasing their home.