A Conservative government would extend the Right to Buy to 1.3 million housing association tenants in England, it announced today.
Currently, around 800,000 housing association tenants who have lived in properties owned by 'public sector landlords' for five years have the right to buy their homes at a discount – capped at £103,900 in London and £77,900 across the rest of England.
But under proposals to be unveiled as part of the Conservatives' manifesto later today, a further 500,000 housing association tenants would be given the right to buy.
The proposed discount will give a tenant who has lived in a house owned by the public sector for three years the right to buy their home at a discount of 35%, rising by a further 1% for each additional year they have lived in public sector housing.
Tenants who live in flats, will be offered a 50% discount after three years, which will rise by 2% for each additional year.
Councils would also be forced to put 210,000 of their most valuable properties up for sale. The Conservatives also said they will build 400,000 new homes on brownfield land by creating a £1 billion regeneration fund.
The party said it wants to "make sure more people can enjoy the security of home ownership".
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Another nail in the coffin
However, Ruth Davison, director of policy and external affairs at the National Housing Federation, said: “Extending Right to Buy to housing associations is the wrong solution to our housing crisis. Following 40 years of successive governments’ failure to build the homes the country needs, soaring rents and house prices and the biggest baby boom since the 1950s, ensuring that there are enough homes today and tomorrow must be our nation’s top priority.
“While extending Right to Buy will see some people being able to buy their own home with help from the taxpayer, these are people already living in good secure homes on some of the country’s cheapest rents. It won’t help the millions of people in private rented homes who are desperate to buy but have no hope of doing so, nor the three million adult children living with their parents because they can’t afford to rent or buy.”
Campbell Robb, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, shared some of Davison's concerns. He said: "This would be yet another nail in the coffin for affordable housing. We have already seen an outright failure to replace like-for-like the homes sold under right to buy, with only one new affordable home built for every five sold.
"Extending the scheme to housing associations may benefit a lucky few, but does little to help the millions of private renters struggling to cope with sky high housing costs and instability. And, with the current track record, will mean there's even fewer affordable homes left for future generations.
"At a time when more and more people are struggling to find an affordable place to live, the next government's priority has to be building more affordable homes, not selling off the few we have left."
Phoenix Community Housing, a resident-led housing association, in Lewisham, London, has been voicing its fears about Right to Buy since last autumn. In a statement, it said: "Tenants who purchase their property through Right to Buy are currently entitled to a £103,900 discount in London and £77,900 elsewhere in England.
"For an area like ours in south Lewisham, where property valuations are much lower than the London norm, that means the size of the discount is often higher than the actual price paid for a property. Like other stock-transfer housing associations, we also only receive a proportion of sale proceeds."
All of this means we receive far less from each Right to Buy sales than we need to build a like-for-like replacement home, especially if we need to purchase land on the open market. We've also seen a huge increase in Right to Buy implications since the discount was raised to its current level.
"We are very concerned about what this means for the future supply of social rented homes in our area, and the implications for future families and individuals in need of housing."