Islington’s housing chief says ‘buy-for-temp’ scheme will get around government ‘red tape’

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, executive member for housing and development. Photograph: Islington Council

Islington Council has agreed to buy private homes in Islington and Greater London to provide temporary accommodation for people waiting for social housing.

The scheme, approved at the council’s executive meeting on 14 June, will see the council purchase around 88 properties over the next two years.

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, executive member for housing and development, told the Islington Citizen today that the plans would help the council get around government red tape on borrowing to build homes, and cut private landlords out of the picture.

“Government red tape places a myriad of restrictions on how we spend our own Housing Revenue Account funds, in particular right-to-buy receipts”, he said.

“Unspent right-to-buy receipts have to be returned to the government, but they make it very hard for us to spend them in the time allowed.

“We are allowed, however, to use these receipts to purchase temporary accommodation through our General Fund. We are therefore bringing as much temporary accommodation in-house as we can.”

Islington Council has 12,000 households on its social housing waiting list, with 745 of these in temporary accomodation.

Half of the households in temporary accomodation – around 372 – are living outside of Islington, and most of the households – 680 – are living in private accomodation.

Cllr Ward continued: “We pay a lot of money to private landlords for temporary accommodation, and we can both save money and provide a better service to our residents by bringing more temporary accommodation in-house.”

Some of the new properties will be outside of Islington, and as far afield as Greater London, because of how expensive properties in Islington have become, with the average flat prices in 2017 at £595,000.

Cllr Ward, in his report to cabinet, said: “We recommend that, whilst we focus our efforts on purchasing properties within Islington, we should look at opportunities within the wider Greater London area which have direct public transport links back into the borough so that tenants can still access services with relative ease.

“Whilst this would not be our first choice, it should be recognised that almost half of the temporary accommodation we have is in other London boroughs, where there is a greater supply of affordable housing.”

The scheme will be 70 per cent paid for out of the council’s general fund and 30 per cent paid for with right-to-buy money.

Cllr Ward’s report also noted that the properties will increase in value over time and could be sold off at a later date.