By Paul Dimoldenberg
A report to today’s meeting of Westminster City Council’s Housing Scrutiny Committee shows that more than 3,500 former council flats are now owned by landlords, often charging more than four times a council rent.
The report reveals that the Council has sold 9,135 (45%) of its 21,243 Council flats under the Right-to-buy and that 3,603 (39%) are now sublet and “owned by small and multiple landlords”.
Former Council flats in Westminster owned by Buy-to-let landlords are now rented out at more than £500 a week, over four times the average rent of Council flats, and are out the price range of the vast majority of Westminster residents in housing need. The transfer from public to private ownership has a huge cost to the public purse as many of the Buy-to-let landlords are being subsidised by thousands of pounds of Housing Benefit payments.
The Right-to-buy has transformed many Council estates in Westminster into Buy-to-let goldmines for private landlords. Rather than meeting housing need, some of Westminster’s Council estates are now providing Buy-to-let landlords with increasing financial returns as rents continue to escalate, often with the help of a huge Government subsidy. Meanwhile Westminster residents in overcrowded conditions have to wait even longer to get rehoused.
We need a massive building programme of new homes at social rents right across London and an end to the current sell-off of more Council property. Westminster’s housing stock of homes for those on low incomes has been almost halved over the last 30 years. No wonder there is a housing crisis of epic proportions. When will the Government see sense and reverse its damaging housing policies?”
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg is Leader of the Labour Group on Westminster City Council.