UK/Ipswich: New government boost for right to buy tenants

Ed Balls visited Ipswich to open new council houses in Whitton Church Lane.

Ed Balls visited Ipswich to open new council houses in Whitton Church Lane.

Council tenants are to be given more help if they want to buy their homes, local government secretary Eric Pickles has announced.

The maximum discount that can be offered to tenants is to be increased and money raised from the sale of social housing will be put back into building more such homes.

However the number of home purchases under right to buy legislation has fallen considerably since it as a key part of the Thatcher revolution of the 1980s.

Over the last two years just 71 of Ipswich council’s 8,200 council homes were sold off under right to buy legislation.

In Colchester the number was even fewer – 29 of the 6,300 homes. And there were similar proportions sold in Babergh, Mid Suffolk, and Tendring.

Many councils transferred their stock of homes to housing associations back in the 1980s or 1990s.

Mr Pickles said: “For years the Right to Buy was slowly strangled, with a miserly cap on discounts killing the prospect of home ownership for most social tenants.

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“We don’t think governments should be in the business of vetoing aspiration. That’s why we reinvigorated the Right To Buy.”

However the Ipswich councillor responsible for housing, Labour’s John Mowles, was not impressed by the government’s efforts to sell social housing.

He said: “We hear a lot from them about RTB – the Right To Buy – but we’re more interested in another RTB, the Responsibility To Build.”

The country was suffering from a lack of social housing – and the borough was working to ease the situation in Ipswich by building more council houses for the first time in a generation.

New homes were handed over to tenants in Whitton Church Lane just before Christmas, and work is due to start in the spring on a major new project at Bader Close on Priory Heath.

Mr Mowles said: “When the right to buy came in there was a serious fall in the number of homes that were available to rent. That has helped cause the housing problems that we are facing today.

“It is now vital to get more social homes built – that is why our building programme is so important.”

Mr Mowles added that government rules meant that new council homes currently being built could not be bought by tenants for less than their building cost for the next 15 years, saying: “We are building badly-needed homes for tenants – and they will continue to be available for social housing.”