Right to buy could decimate Harrogate council’s housing stock

Harrogate view from Crescent Gardens
Harrogate view from Crescent Gardens
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Harrogate could see its limited social housing stock severely slashed by the government’s planned right to buy extension, councillors fear.

Currently there are 3,466 on the council house waiting list in Harrogate, and councillors have raised concerns that thousands of homes owned by the council or housing association will be sold off under the Conservatives renewed right to buy, exasperating the district’s housing shortage.

The Conservative’s outlined plans to extend the right to buy scheme ahead of the election in May, however the exact details remain unclear.

Ahead of the election David Cameron said: “As the most expensive council properties fall vacant, we are going to require councils to sell them off – and we’ll replace them with new affordable housing in the same area.”

This has prompted fears that councils in areas where housing is expensive, such as Harrogate where the average house price sits at £271,935 compared to the England and Wales average of £179,696, could see housing stock decimated.

Independent Coun Chris Lewis (Great Ouseburn) raised her worries at a Harrogate Borough Council meeting last week.

She said: “These government proposals to sell off the most valuable housing could see our council having to sell off even our smallest one bed room flats, wouldn’t that have a huge impact on our ability to provide homes?”

Harrogate Borough Councillor’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Coun Mike Chambers (Con, Ripon Spa) replied: “Yes it could mean that for us. Currently the definition of the policy is being defined by the government and we have made our concerns known.”

According to figures from the Department for Communities, 13 homes were sold by Harrogate Borough Council between 2009 and 2014, however the council admits it has a very limited number of properties, and relies heavily on housing associations to find places for tenants on waiting lists.

Harrogate Borough Council currently owns 3,684 council houses across the district, 1,725 of which are in Harrogate and the council admits fewer than one in ten people on the waiting list will be placed within a year.

This year there are 1,266 households on council house waiting lists in Harrogate, down from 2,822 in 2011/2013. In 2013 the council amended the criteria for the council house waiting list so that households with no local connection or with an income of over £60,000 were excluded.

The council demands that 40 per cent of all houses on new build estates are ‘affordable’ with a large number becoming housing association properties, however as the recession took hold and house building decreased the area has been getting fewer affordable homes each year. In 2012/13 only 36 affordable homes were built, however in 2014/15 80 affordable houses were completed. Coun Chambers expects this to improve and said that there are 1,854 affordable homes ‘in the pipe line’.

The Rural Housing Alliance has voiced concerns over the impact that right to buy will have on rural areas, claiming it could lead to a complete lack of affordable housing in some parishes and Country Land and Business Association policy director Christopher Price has said the proposal threatened to turn the “already challenging situation into a catastrophe for delivery of affordable housing in the countryside”.

How will an extended right to buy scheme affect you? Will you be able to buy your home? Are you on the council house waiting list in Harrogate? Get in touch, email laura.hill@jpress.co.uk