Purpose of Report
To present the Executive with the Council’s Acquisition Policy for development sites, former council and empty homes and the introduction of a grant scheme to enable a transfer of Right to Buy receipts to increase the supply of affordable homes and to bring more empty homes back into use.
That the Council’s Acquisition Policy be approved.
Alternative Options Considered and Rejected
The Acquisition Policy was just one of a range of options the Council could use to increase the supply of affordable homes. Such a policy, if approved, would supplement the new homes programme and partnership working with other social housing providers to provide additional affordable homes in the city.
Reason for Decision
Under the latest Right to Buy regulations, owners of former council homes purchased under the Right to Buy initiative must, if they wished to re-sell their property within ten years of their initial purchase, offer it to their former landlord. Should the sale take place within the first five years of their ownership they must also repay a percentage of the Right to Buy discount they had received on the purchase of the property.
Local authorities had the ability to reinvest Right to Buy receipts within retention agreements for a period of three years. These receipts could be used for 30% of the capital costs of the purchase or repair of a property or new build on the basis that they provided a one for one replacement for social housing.
In recent years there had been an increase in the number of properties sold by the Council through Right to Buy, as set out in the table at paragraph 2.3 of the report. As a result of the increase in sales of council houses, there would be an additional pressure on the authority to spend retained capital receipts for the purposes of Right to Buy replacement.
The Council currently had a selective buy back policy which gave the Director of Housing Investment delegated authority, in consultation with the Chief Finance Officer, to consider and approve the terms for purchase of former council properties bought through Right to Buy. The policy gave approval on an individual property by property basis, taking into account value, negotiated purchase price, cost of any refurbishment works and ongoing repairing responsibilities and future rental income.
The Council’s Housing Strategy included a target to bring 50 empty homes per annum back into use. This was adopted in 2018 and outlined the Council’s approach to reducing the number of empty homes. This was a particular priority in the Sincil Bank area as part of its regeneration programme due to the impact on the local street scene, ant-social behaviour and the overall feeling of neglect.
The proposed criteria for the acquisition of former council homes, as part of this revised policy, was set out in paragraph four of the report. It was proposed that former council properties that were offered back to the council for purchase or were for sale on the open market would be assessed and a business case prepared with a recommendation to either purchase or reject the property. The number of properties purchased per annum would be determined by the amount available in the Council’s Right to Buy capital receipts fund.
The criteria for the acquisition of strategic land sites and private housing was set out at paragraph five of the report. The Council was, on occasions, approached directly by landowners offering to sell vacant, recently developed housing sites or individual private properties. It was proposed that residential sites offered to the Council for sale directly or that became available on the open market were assessed to determine if they met the Council’s strategic priorities and could be defined as local housing.
The proposed approach to working with registered housing providers to deliver more affordable homes in Lincoln was outlined at paragraph six of the report. The use of retained capital receipts could be utilised for Right to Buy replacement of a range of affordable housing products. Right to Buy receipts could be transferred to registered housing providers to provide 30% of funding to deliver affordable housing within Lincoln. To increase the number of empty homes brought back into use and further increase the supply of new build affordable housing, the Council was proposed to introduce an innovative capital grants programme using Right to Buy capital receipts which otherwise would be returned to the Treasury with interest if not spent within three years.