'End is near' for council housing

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The Independent Online

The council home, among the most potent symbols of the postwar welfare state, will all but vanish in a decade, say two leading housing bodies.

The council home, among the most potent symbols of the postwar welfare state, will all but vanish in a decade, say two leading housing bodies.

In that time, the number in England will fall from 3.2 million to just 500,000, said the Council of Mortgage Lenders and the Chartered Institute of Housing. And there will be no council housing in Scotland and Wales. Thirty years ago there were five million council homes.

The groups said social housing - homes at an affordable rent below the market level - would exist but would be run by housing associations and trusts rather than elected councils.

John Perry, policy director of the institute, said the impetus had come from the Government's decision to allow the wholesale transfer of a council's entire housing stock where it was approved by tenants.

Mr Perry said the motivating factor was the Government's estimate of a £19bn backlog of repairs and its decision to set a 10-year deadline to tackle the problem. So far only a few councils, mainly in leafy suburbia, have opted for this route, but Coventry, Birmingham and Sunderland in England are poised to transfer their council homes. There are 20 wholesale transfers earmarked for the current financial year. "The role of councils will obviously be much smaller than it is now," Mr Perry said.

Glasgow, among Europe's biggest landlords with 90,000 homes, could follow suit, although the process has run into bitter opposition from tenants.

But he said post-devolution, the cash-strapped authorities in both Scotland and Wales had made clear they believed stock transfer was the only answer to the crisis over poor housing.

"Ironically, devolution could lead to much faster disappearance of council housing north of the border than might have otherwise have been the case," he said. The scale of the transfer programme meant it would soon overtake the number of homes sold under the Tory "right to buy" legislation.

Since the 1980s, about 1.5 million homes have been sold.

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