Is Conservative Right To Buy Pledge Misguided?

victorian property street

There are rumours that the conservatives are planning to win few votes from social housing tenants by extending Right to Buy.

Right to Buy was part of the conservative government’s manifesto way back in 1979 when huge discounts on council houses were brought in to allow tenants to buy their own homes. This not only proved a masterstroke for the government at the time, but also helped to revolutionize the property market in the UK.

Back in the 70s few working class people could afford to own their own homes and the only option was to rent from the local authority. Right To Buy changed all that and millions of homeowners will have benefited from the subsequent rise in value of their homes in the 36 years since.

As a result, there will be many more people who will welcome the extension of Right To Buy and make it available to Britain’s 2.5 million social housing tenants.  But not everyone is happy to hear about the conservatives pre-election housing plans.

Affordable housing specialists Hastoe Group predict that extending Right To Buy will devastate the social housing sector, particularly in rural communities where social housing is already in short supply.

Social housing makes up just 12% of housing in rural communities in the UK compared to 19% in towns and cities. Hastoe Group think that there will be a disproportionate impact on rural communities “where housing association homes are more likely to be houses as opposed to flats, and more attractive to buy.”

Sue Chalkley, Chief Executive of Hastoe Group, added, “One of the most important parts of providing affordable homes in a rural setting is doing so hand-in-hand with the local community and the mutual understanding that these homes will be kept specifically for people from that community.

“If you extend Right to Buy to these homes, you cannot prevent them from being lost to the open market. At a time when rural communities are opening up and asking for affordable homes in their local area, this change could set us back years. How many communities are going to ask for affordable housing in their local area when they could be legitimately concerned that it would be lost almost immediately?

“We know too that the pledge to replace each home sold with another affordable home does not happen – in London the 2,712 homes sold since the start of 2012 have been replaced by zero homes and it is the same in rural areas.”

The poorer social housing tenants may well feel that they are being squeezed onto the margins with the choice of property becoming more limited. The UK already has a structural shortage of housing available and there is a danger that the stark choice for prospective social housing tenants will be to work hard and save to buy your house or risk the prospect of being forced to take any property that becomes available.

Posted on: March 26, 2015

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Scott Neal

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