Government plans to introduce the legal right for housing association tenants in England to be able to buy their existing homes at discounted prices have been met with strong objections from across the sector.
Since its introduction in 1980 the statutory right to buy has existed for council tenants and around 2 million local authority homes have since been sold, although many of them have been sold-on (some estimates are as high as 40 per cent) and are now re-let as private rentals at higher rent levels than previously.
The Chartered Institute of Housing said it is supportive of measures to help people into home ownership, but extending the Right to Buy to housing associations is not the right policy to achieve this. It said the policy would lead to a reduction in the overall number of affordable homes with little prospect of homes sold being replaced on anything like a one for one basis.
“We are at a point of crisis in this country, with over 1.1 million households on waiting lists for social housing. The number of households living in temporary accommodation has nearly doubled in the last decade. We need more, not less, affordable social homes.”
It added that the Government was talking about selling assets that do not belong to the state. The homes belong to housing associations, many of them are charitable organisations, which exist to provide benefit to the community, holding their assets in trust for the community by providing affordable homes for rent. Imposing the change could create enormous legal and financial difficulties.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, was more strident in her opposition, saying: “The hare-brained idea of extending Right-to-Buy to housing associations is the opposite of what the country needs. There could not be a worse time to sell off what remains of our last truly affordable social homes.
“The cost of living crisis means more people are on the brink of homelessness than homeownership – nearly 34,000 households in England became homeless between October and December last year, more than 8,000 of them were families with children.
“Right to Buy has already torn a massive hole in our social housing stock as less than 5 per cent of the homes sold off have ever been replaced. These half-baked plans have been tried before and they’ve failed. Over one million households are stuck on social housing waiting lists in England, and with every bill skyrocketing, the Government should be building more social homes so we have more not less.”
The new right did not appear in the Queen’s Speech and the strength of the opposition to it may have caused it to be dropped from the Prime Minister’s plans. The right to buy has been abolished in Wales and Scotland by the devolved administrations.
Patrick Mooney, Editor