THE END OF RIGHT TO BUY?

young sad beautiful woman suffering depression looking worried a

 

By Rob Stafford

 

Following the Scottish decision in July to scrap the “Right to Buy” (RTB) program from 1st August, Wales are set to follow their Caledonian cousins in the next 12 months. Which poses two questions, how is the alternative going to work and is England about to follow suit?

 

So, how is it going to work in Wales?

 

According to Carl Sergeant Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children; the scaling back of RTB is running concurrently with fresh plans to build more social housing and an increase in saleable stock. Government investment of an additional £290 million in Wales’ “help to buy”(HTB) shared equity loan scheme proposes to make some 6,000 additional houses available to first-time buyers by 2021.

 

It is hoped that further investment in HTB, alongside a commitment to build social housing will provide a ‘decent place to live’ for all; whether first time buyers or society’s most needy. At the same time the prohibition of sub-letting HTB properties and the end of RTB; should keep social housing and stock targeted at first time buyers in circulation, rather than in the hands of private landlords.

 

Are we likely to see something similar in England?

 

Simply put, it’s likely to depend upon who our political masters are. The Labour Party has attributed the loss of around 45% of the social housing stock to RTB and pledged to end the policy should they come to power in 2020.

 

Alongside this, there has been pressure in sections of the media and a damning analysis of RTB by the Local Government Association (LGA); which revealed in August that the replacement of RTB stock with new homes dropped 27% in 2015-16 from the equivalent period in the previous year.

 

The LGA’s analysis showed that in 2015-16 for the 12,246 council homes sold under RTB, just 2,055 replacements were started by councils. These figures also represent part of the reduction in social housing from 31% to 17% of total housing stock since the scheme’s inception in 1980. To this backdrop, the LGA has warned that continuing RTB risks further stagnation in affordable housing, increased pressure on the council home waiting list (which already numbers 1.4 million people) and even an increase in homelessness.

 

Despite this pressure, the current government has so far shown little interest in ending RTB. The scheme did appear to be slowing towards a natural demise before its relaunch in 2012, with an offer to quadruple discounts for London council tenants.

 

Since then the government announced plans in 2015 to extend RTB further, with up to 1.3 million housing association tenants now eligible (previously the scheme only included council tenants). An increase of 800,000 properties on the 500,000 housing association properties currently eligible.

Furthermore, in an August statement The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), simply reiterated its commitment to invest in affordable homes. Promising to step in and build homes for local authorities who fail to begin building replacements within the 3-year deadline from sale, by which they are supposed to abide.

 

So, the simple answer is no. The earliest we’re likely to see an end to RTB is the end of the current parliament in 2020, and even that is likely to be dependent on a Labour win. Of course, it’s entirely possible that media or public pressure may change the current administration’s view, politicians are beasts of opinion if nothing else. But in the immediate term, RTB in England is going nowhere fast.

Following the Scottish decision in July to scrap the “Right to Buy” (RTB) program from 1st August, Wales are set to follow their Caledonian cousins in the next 12 months. Which poses two questions, how is the alternative going to work and is England about to follow suit?

 

So, how is it going to work in Wales?

 

According to Carl Sergeant Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children; the scaling back of RTB is running concurrently with fresh plans to build more social housing and an increase in saleable stock. Government investment of an additional £290 million in Wales’ “help to buy”(HTB) shared equity loan scheme proposes to make some 6,000 additional houses available to first-time buyers by 2021.

 

It is hoped that further investment in HTB, alongside a commitment to build social housing will provide a ‘decent place to live’ for all; whether first time buyers or society’s most needy. At the same time the prohibition of sub-letting HTB properties and the end of RTB; should keep social housing and stock targeted at first time buyers in circulation, rather than in the hands of private landlords.

 

Are we likely to see something similar in England?

 

Simply put, it’s likely to depend upon who our political masters are. The Labour Party has attributed the loss of around 45% of the social housing stock to RTB and pledged to end the policy should they come to power in 2020.

 

Alongside this, there has been pressure in sections of the media and a damning analysis of RTB by the Local Government Association (LGA); which revealed in August that the replacement of RTB stock with new homes dropped 27% in 2015-16 from the equivalent period in the previous year.

 

The LGA’s analysis showed that in 2015-16 for the 12,246 council homes sold under RTB, just 2,055 replacements were started by councils. These figures also represent part of the reduction in social housing from 31% to 17% of total housing stock since the scheme’s inception in 1980. To this backdrop, the LGA has warned that continuing RTB risks further stagnation in affordable housing, increased pressure on the council home waiting list (which already numbers 1.4 million people) and even an increase in homelessness.

 

Despite this pressure, the current government has so far shown little interest in ending RTB. The scheme did appear to be slowing towards a natural demise before its relaunch in 2012, with an offer to quadruple discounts for London council tenants.

 

Since then the government announced plans in 2015 to extend RTB further, with up to 1.3 million housing association tenants now eligible (previously the scheme only included council tenants). An increase of 800,000 properties on the 500,000 housing association properties currently eligible.

Furthermore, in an August statement The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), simply reiterated its commitment to invest in affordable homes. Promising to step in and build homes for local authorities who fail to begin building replacements within the 3-year deadline from sale, by which they are supposed to abide.

 

So, the simple answer is no. The earliest we’re likely to see an end to RTB is the end of the current parliament in 2020, and even that is likely to be dependent on a Labour win. Of course, it’s entirely possible that media or public pressure may change the current administration’s view, politicians are beasts of opinion if nothing else. But in the immediate term, RTB in England is going nowhere fast.

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