Islington Council bites back at housing associations in Right to Buy

Cllr James Murray: 'We are determined to help make sure people have decent homes to live in'

Cllr James Murray: 'We are determined to help make sure people have decent homes to live in' - Credit: Archant

Islington Council launched its social housing fightback last night, telling housing associations who backed the government’s Right to Buy scheme: “If you’re going to raise money from it, you can damn well spend it in this borough.”

Right to Buy gives eligible housing association tenants the right to purchase a home with discount. But as part of the scheme, the government will force authorities to sell off higher value council homes on the open market to compensate associations providing these discounts.

Islington would be the fourth most affected borough in the country, according to analysis by housing charity Shelter. Some figures estimate the council would have to sell over 6,000 council homes.

Last Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed the Conservative government had accepted the National Housing Federation’s offer to extend Right to Buy to housing associations.

And at last night’s meeting of the full council in the town hall, an emergency motion was raised, calling for housing associations operating in the borough to ring-fence any receipts from Right to Buy sales in Islington, and to invest them in like-for-like replacement homes for social rent.

It was unanimously backed by the Labour-controlled authority. Cllr James Murray, executive member for housing and development, will be writing to the housing associations and said: “We thought we were going to be working with our partners. You can only imagine our anger and disappointment. We have been left completely high and dry. The relationship has really been tested.

“Our message is if you’re going to raise money from Right To Buy, you can damn well spend it here.

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“The scariest thing is the Government wants to drive social housing out of Islington.

“We are tonight ready to stand by [Labour leader and Islington North MP] Jeremy Corbyn and the shadow housing minister in our unwavering desire to fight back.”

Speaking to the Gazette after the vote, Cllr Murray said he was confident housing associations will listen: “I think a lot of them will realise how severely their reputations have been tested.

“I would hope they want to make at least some gesture in our direction that they have commitment to affordable housing in Islington.”