13 Jun 2022

A selection of property industry figures have spoken out against the government’s latest proposals to extend Right To Buy to housing associations.

Council tenants in England have been able to buy their homes at a discount since October 1980, when the policy was introduced under former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Boris Johnson wishes to extend it further but only in England – Right To Buy has been scrapped completely in the other nations of the UK, where it has been blamed for reducing levels of affordable housing because those properties sold off were rarely replaced by new homes.

Proposals to extend Right To Buy to housing association tenants on a voluntary basis began under another former Tory prime minister, David Cameron, but a pilot scheme ran into the sand because replacement properties cost more than the revenue raised by selling existing ones.

However, current Housing Secretary Michael Gove says new social housing units can be produced “instantly” to replace homes bought under Right To Buy’s extended scheme.

Many others remain unconvinced. 

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, describes the proposal as “baffling, unworkable, and a dangerous gimmick” which would “put our rapidly shrinking supply of social homes at even greater risk.”

She adds: “For decades the promise to replace every social home sold off through right to buy has flopped. If these plans progress we will remain stuck in the same destructive cycle.”

Paula Higgins, chief executive of consumer group HomeOwners Alliance, comments: “Right To Buy is not so good for the swathes of people in need of social housing now and in the future as the scheme will erode the number of affordable homes for rent. It’s also not so good for the 4.4m renters in the private sector who do not have the same opportunity. And not so good for taxpayers who are funding the discounts which will ultimately deplete the affordable housing stock. 

“It is laughable to think that the housing associations will meet the target of replacing 1 for 1 within three years using money raised from the sale plus the Treasury’s funding of the discount. The government’s own evaluation of their recent pilot in the Midlands made the same conclusion. The reality is that the cost of acquiring new land, securing planning permissions and build costs will be higher than the money raised.”

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