Liberal Democrats have welcomed a change in heart by Southwark’s Labour administration which could see an end to the sale of all council homes worth under £500,000.

All council properties valued at more than £300,000 are currently considered for sale when they become empty. However a Cabinet paper next week could see this minimum value threshold pushed up to £500,000, meaning that homes priced beneath that amount will be safe from sale.

The rise in the sale price threshold was a central part of Southwark Liberal Democrats’ recent local elections campaign in May, with Lib Dem councillors consistently arguing that the sale price threshold should be raised to £500,000.

The proposal to change the policy marks a notable shift in the Labour administration’s approach to council housing, after they had previously argued that selling-off lower value homes was necessary. On taking office in 2010, one of the first decisions of the Labour administration was to reduce the threshold down from the previous amount of £400,000 to ensure more homes could be sold-off.

Speaking at Council Assembly last week (Wednesday 16 July), Southwark Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Anood Al-Samerai thanked the council leader for reviewing the policy. She also asked if he would consider another Liberal Democrat policy of allowing residents to fix up council homes in exchange for a reduction in rents, instead of homes in need of repair being sold at auction.

The proposed change to the sales threshold value will be agreed at a council Cabinet meeting today.

Commenting, Southwark Liberal Democrats’ housing spokesperson Hamish McCallum said:

“I welcome the change of heart by Labour on this issue. For a long time, Southwark Liberal Democrats have pushed for an end to homes at the lower end of the market being sold-off, given the huge and growing demand for council homes in the borough.”

“I hope Labour will also consider some of our other ideas on housing, such as allowing residents to fix up empty council homes for a reduction in rent, and investing in new homes through the council’s pension fund.”

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