A government minister says Harrow Council should ‘stop moaning and get building’ after figures revealed it spends £500,000-a-year renting properties it used to own.
The comments come after accounts showed Harrow Borough Council has to pay to rent back homes it used to own for social housing tenants.
The properties were sold under the Government's Right to Buy scheme, which has led to “a financial straitjacket for Harrow residents” according to council cabinet member for housing Glen Hearnden.
In response to Cllr Hearnden's comments, housing minister Brandon Lewis says the Right to Buy is both increasing housing supply and reducing waiting lists.
He said: “Overall, the housing stock grows and more people are being housed. Critics of Right to Buy are enemies of home ownership, and fail to appreciate the wider benefits of helping people move on and up the housing ladder.
“So far, Right to Buy sales have generated £420 million in receipts to be reinvested in new affordable homes, and council house building starts are now at a 23-year high.
“More council housing was built in London last year than all thirteen years of the last Government.
“However, Harrow Council is currently sitting on £2.6 million in unspent Right to Buy receipts for new affordable homes, and it needs to stop moaning and get building.”
Last month the council announced it was moving forward with plans to build more than 500 new homes, including the redevelopment of the Grange Farm estate in South Harrow.
The authority’s housing department is now in discussions with tenants on the estate to develop a regeneration delivery plan.
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "There's a sad irony in the fact the Council is now renting back homes it sold, at a significant cost to taxpayers.
“It's a good thing that former council tenants were able to get on the housing ladder by purchasing their home, but councils are still under enormous pressure to house those on waiting lists.
“The root cause of this problem is our illiberal planning system, which means we are not building enough homes in the places people want them, at the prices they can afford.”