Logo

Housing groups express concern at revived proposal to extend Right to Buy to all housing association tenants

The National Housing Federation (NHF) and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) have expressed concern at the prospect of the Right to Buy being extended to all housing association residents, amid media reports that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering the move.

Officials in the No 10 policy unit are said to be working on the proposal which is intended to help the “generation rent” of under-forties.

In a statement NHF Chief Executive Kate Henderson said: “In 2015 housing associations agreed to explore how the Right to Buy could be extended to our residents. Our agreement with the government at that time was based on a clear set of principles, our red line being that every single social home sold would be replaced. Recent pilots have demonstrated how difficult this is to achieve, as there is not enough money from sales to build new social homes. 

 "Since this agreement was made the housing crisis has worsened, particularly for low-income families, as Michael Gove highlighted last week. Our recent research shows that there are 4.2m people in need of social housing in England today. Every social home sold will make that waiting list longer. Housing associations are also facing new financial challenges, including the urgent need to make all their buildings safe and decarbonise homes. Our priority is to continue our partnership with government to increase the supply of good quality social housing."

Article continues below...


The CIH meanwhile said that while it was supportive of measures to help people into home ownership, extending the Right to Buy to housing associations was “not the right policy to achieve this”.

The Chartered Institute said: “It 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 1.1m 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 pointed to recent analysis by Professor Alan Murie for the 2022 UK Housing Review which concluded that the Right to Buy had led to an erosion of the stock of social rented homes, “many of which have, through subsequent sales, found their way into the unregulated private rented sector (currently 40 per cent and likely to continue to rise), thus undermining the ambition to boost home ownership”.

The CIH added: “Whilst government has made commitments in the past to ensure homes sold through right to buy are replaced, less than five per cent of the homes sold off have ever actually been substituted.”

It warned that the Right to Buy came at a significant cost to the taxpayer. “Experience shows that previously affordable rented housing often passes (via a period of owner occupation) into the private rented sector with higher rents, which in turn pushes up the taxpayer-funded benefit bill and adds pressure to local authority waiting lists and temporary accommodation costs.”

The Chartered Institute also pointed out that the Government was talking about selling assets that did not belong to them. “They belong to housing associations, often charitable organisations, which exist to provide benefit to the community, holding their assets in trust for the community by providing affordable homes for rent. Forcing the sale of assets risks nationalising them and their debt which will damage funder confidence and impact on their ability to build more and maintain existing stock.”

Urging the Government “to think again”, the CIH said: “The extension of Right to Buy should only take place if there are proper measures to replace the social rented homes lost and to compensate housing associations. Home ownership is a legitimate aspiration for government policy but cannot be at the expense of the poorest households. At a time of rising living costs and increasing pressure on the housing system we need to be focussed on building more social homes, not selling off existing stock.”

(c) HB Editorial Services Ltd 2009-2020