Since the Conservatives gained control of Wandsworth Council in 1978 the borough has proved a trailblazer for the Party. Radical policies to widen opportunity and improve services at reduced cost have meant that for decades the pattern has been: “Wandsworth today, Britain tomorrow”.
Promoting home ownership has been an important part of the story. For 21,000 council tenants, the dream has become a reality in that borough, under Conservative rule.
But further progress is harder given the astonishing rise in property prices. As ever the Council is rising to the challenge with a radical approach:
“Council tenants in Wandsworth could soon have a Right to Part Buy a share of their home with a substantial discount, creating a new generation of homeowners.
“From next year, secure tenants not able to afford the full price of their council home would instead be able to purchase a proportion of it and pay a low rent on the rest.
“The percentage being bought would reflect the proportion of the full £103,900 Right to Buy discount, so for example buying a 25 per cent share would mean a discount of £25,975.”
There would the option of “staircasing” – buying further shares in the property up to 100 per cent. The proceeds to the council from the Right to Part Buy sales will go into building new affordable homes. Residents who wished to move could sell their share at market value but the council would have first refusal.
I would like to go further. Sometimes these shared ownership deals are unattractive due to excessive leaseholder charges. These should be proportionate – those owning 25 per cent of a property should pay 25 per cent of the service charges, not 100 per cent. Also there should be a right to shared ownership with an initial stake – say ten per cent – offered free for all tenants who meet certain provisos such as taking responsibility for minor repairs.
However, the reality is that this scheme in Wandsworth will make it possible for many residents to get onto the housing ladder who would not otherwise have had that chance. The mission begun all those years ago continues.