The Right to Buy Conundrum
As anticipated, the National Housing Federation Conference last week offered a range of interesting insights into the challenges that the sector is facing and options available to overcome them. The biggest and most immediate discussion point seems to be the compromise proposal made by the NHF to members that will see Housing Associations offer Right to Buy to their tenants.
The proposal, supported by the G15 of London Housing Associations, is that HAs will voluntarily adopt the scheme, with discounts fully funded by the government. The terms appear to offer a halfway house solution so the Government can still claim delivery on it’s election promise of extending Right to Buy, while HA’s can retain their independence and some of their flexibility. The caveat is that there is just one week for the sector to decide whether to accept or reject the proposal. It’s the urgency of the deadline that catapults the topic to the top of the agenda coming out of last week’s conference and the decision could well have a huge impact on the future of the businesses operating in the sector.
My concern is that each property bought through the scheme will remove two social rented properties from a national portfolio that is already too small. The rental property transitioning to leasehold ownership on the Housing Association side being one, and the Local Authority void property sold to fund the purchase being the second. There are promises in place to use the money to build and develop new properties, but the track record, particularly on the Government side, of delivering on these promises leaves doubt about the effect on long waiting lists for social rent properties.
There are so many questions to answer here, with such little time to do it, that the ability to make the right decision seems to be seriously hampered. Yes or No, the consequences of the outcome will be significant.