Islington Council sells off flats to build houses

Islington, one of the most expensive corners of the capital, is helping its low income workers onto the property ladder

Islington Council has agreed to sell off 60 studio and one-bedroom council flats each year under shared ownership rules. The council says it has too many small flats and will use the sales income to help build desperately needed family homes.

The project, approved by the council’s executive committee on November 25, could be rolled out across London if it the scheme is a success.

Councillor James Murray, Islington’s housing chief, said the borough currently has 3,000 families living in overcrowded conditions. “It is not unheard of to have seven people living in a two-bedroom flat,” he said. “The priority we have is to build more family-size housing and we need to raise the money somehow in order to relieve overcrowding.”

The first tranche of ten homes will be sold in early 2011, with existing tenants, their children, and people on the council’s housing waiting list being given priority. A report on the project points out that Labour-controlled Islington is one of the most expensive boroughs in London, and the scheme will allow buyers on low and middle incomes to get a toehold in an area in danger of becoming “polarised“ towards the wealthy.

Belinda Porich, head of the London region of the National Housing Federation, gave the proposals a cautious welcome. “Certainly they do need more family housing; it is not a bad idea on the face of it but you are going to end up with fewer properties overall and what will happen to the people already in the flats?” Councillor Murray pledged that homes would only be sold when they became empty.

The news comes as the Government attempts the most radical reform of England’s council housing system since Margaret Thatcher’s “right to buy” scheme in the 1980s.

Housing minister Grant Shapps has announced an end to the “home for life” system which saw tenants given open-ended rights to stay in council homes - instead councils and housing associations will be able to offer contracts of just two years. Campaigners claim it could make the vulnerable households in society homeless.

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