The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has called on the government to suspend right-to-buy due to the low rate of replacement when a home is bought by its occupants and thus removed from the social housing supply.
It was responding to new figures published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government showing that between July and September this year English councils sold 2,417 homes under the scheme, with only 1,160 homes acquired or starting construction to replace them.
This continues a shortfall in replacements that has seen just 20,746 new social homes being acquired by councils since the right-to-buy discounts were introduced in April 2012. Over that same period, 72,929 homes have been sold.
CIH chief executive Terrie Alafat said: “Not only are we failing to build enough homes for social rent – right-to-buy means we are losing them at a time when millions of people need genuinely affordable housing more than ever. Our research shows that we lost more than 150,000 social rented homes between 2012 and 2017 due to right-to-buy and other factor.”
This tally will rise to 230,000 by 2020 unless action is taken “now”, she added.
Ms Alafat emphasised that the CIH is not opposed to people being able to move from being council house tenants to homeowners by buying their homes, but said this must not be at the “expense” of those who need social housing.
While she welcomed news that the government is consulting on ways to make it easier for councils to replace the sold homes, but said that until a clear solution is found, right-to-buy should be put on hold.
According to CIH research, right-to-buy costs councils £300 million a year. If the discounts were cut by a third, the extra revenue could help by funding the construction of 12,000 homes a year.
Right-to-buy no longer operates in Scotland, having been abolished by the SNP administration at Holyrood in 2014.