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The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has thanked boroughs for using his flagship Right to Buy-back scheme to bring more than 1,500 homes back into public ownership.


Since launching in July 2021, fourteen boroughs have been allocated £152m to purchase 1,577 market homes that have been (or will be) converted into affordable housing, either council homes let at social rent or homes to be let as accommodation for homeless households. This includes a total of 908 homes to be let at social rent levels, the cheapest affordable, council rents.


In August last year, the Mayor expanded the Right to Buy-back programme as part of a wider offer to help councils support the arrival of Afghan refugees. Through this expanded offer, he funded two London boroughs (Hounslow & Islington) to purchase 39 homes for recently arrived Afghan families*.


The Mayor is also determined to give boroughs the expertise and resources they require to build the council homes Londoners need. He has therefore made £1m in revenue funding available to help boost uptake of this programme through his Right to Buy-back revenue fund and a further £4m fund to help boroughs unlock land for council homes. The Mayor will formally publish allocations for this revenue programme shortly, but can confirm that eight London boroughs have been successful in securing funding. These boroughs will receive grants from the Mayor to help hire new staff, boost in-house skills and capacity of staff purchasing these homes and to cover technical services that helps to shift these homes from the market into council ownership.


Right to Buy, part of the 1980 Housing Act, gave council tenants who had lived in their house for more than three years the chance to buy their property at a price substantially below market rate. Since the Act’s introduction more than 300,000 London council homes have been sold. The number of replacement council homes that were funded with Right to Buy receipts in London over the last decade (around 14,000) is lower than the total number of homes sold through Right to Buy over the same period (around 23,000). This fundamentally undermines efforts to tackle London’s housing crisis.


While the number of Right to Buy sales has been declining in recent years, the policy continues to have a negative impact on the overall number of council homes in London. It also doesn’t appear to be fulfilling its original mandate of boosting owner occupation, with recent research finding four in ten go on to be rented on the private market – sometimes back to the very council that was forced to sell the home in order to house homeless families.


All homes purchased through the Right to Buy-back scheme must meet the Government’s Decent Homes Standard. With more and more small landlords selling or planning to sell their properties due to changes in tax laws, the Mayor believes it is far better for these homes to be sold back to the council than to other private landlords. The Mayor is also not providing funding for homes that are intended to be demolished, further reflecting his commitment to ensuring these homes are protected in the longer term.


The Right to Buy-back programme is one of the key mechanisms that the Mayor has championed to help increase the supply of council housing across London alongside initiatives such as the landmark £1bn Building Council Homes for Londoners grant funding programme and his £10m Homebuilding Capacity Fund. These programmes are helping to deliver a new renaissance for council home building in the capital.


The Mayor smashed his previous target of starting 10,000 new City Hall-funded council homes earlier this year. Sadiq now aims to start a further 10,000 homes in a significantly shorter time - a total of 20,000 new City Hall-backed council homes by 2024.


The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “For more than 40 years, London’s precious council homes have been disappearing into the private sector, often never to be replaced. As Mayor I have maintained a relentless focus on stemming the tide and replenishing London’s social housing stock.


“I am proud that, thanks to my interventions, we have brought council homebuilding back up to levels not seen since the 1970s and I’m hugely encouraged by the enthusiasm I see from boroughs across London for building new council homes and using my Right to Buy-back scheme to return homes to public ownership. 


“These homes were built for the public good and it has been painful to watch them disappear into private portfolios. Returning these homes to public ownership is a key part of my plan to build a better London for everyone – a city that is greener, fairer and more prosperous for all.”


Damien Egan, Mayor of Lewisham, said: “The Right to Buy-back scheme is already making a big difference in Lewisham, with families moving into their new homes.


“Thanks to funding from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, we have been able to bring these homes back into public ownership, helping to house families on our housing waiting list, many of whom have had years waiting in hostels and B&Bs.”


Councillor Tom Bruce, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Development at Hounslow Council, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Mayor of London on this fantastic scheme. With 188 languages spoken in the borough, Hounslow is a diverse community that has proud history of supporting refugees.”


“We recently purchased fifteen properties for Afghan refugees under this scheme and we look forward to them becoming proud residents of Hounslow.” Photo by DAVID HOLT from London, England, Wikimedia commons