HOT on the heels of the Social Housing Green Paper, the Government has launched a £200 million right-to-buy pilot for tenants living in housing association homes.
The Midlands is the test-bed for the voluntary right-to-buy of scheme first announced back in October 2015 when David Cameron was Prime Minister.
The so-called voluntary deal was brokered by the National Housing Federation (NHF) after the Conservative Government decided to press ahead with a proposal to extend right-to-buy to housing associations, first put forward as part of its election manifesto package.
“Some people said this would be impossible and that housing associations would never stand for it,” Cameron said at the time of the deal. “Today we have secured a deal with housing associations to give their tenants the right to buy their home.”
The policy has proved controversial ever since, not least with its requirement that it be paid for by councils being made to sell off high-value properties.
If nothing else, the launch of the Midlands pilot only serves to spice up the strong flavour the Green Paper left in the mouths of many an industry commentator. For a Green Paper supposedly focused on improving the outlook of social housing, it made quite a meal out of boosting home ownership.
“This Government is committed to providing opportunities for people to get a foot on the property ladder and to have a place they can call their own,” said communities secretary James Brokenshire MP, speaking at the launch of the Midlands pilot today.
“Our £200 million investment into the Midlands Voluntary Right to Buy Pilot is the first step in helping housing association tenants realise their dream of home ownership.”
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said that money from the discounted sales would be used to fund replacement homes.
The NHF’s chief executive, David Orr said: “Over the past three years, we have worked closely with the Government on its proposal to extend the right to buy to housing association tenants. Of course, this pilot is not the finished product. We want to take the time to get this major endeavour right.
“It will be a success for everyone involved only if every home that is sold is replaced with a new affordable home, and if the application process is as smooth as possible for tenants.
“Now, we are looking forward to working with tenants, with housing associations and with the Government to make this pilot a resounding success. This scheme must empower social housing tenants and meet our own ambitions to deliver the homes the country needs.”
Under the pilot, places will be allocated via a ballot to “ensure fairness and manage interest” within the £200 million funding available. The ballot will close a month from today’s launch, with the pilot running until spring 2020 giving successful candidates “adequate time” to complete the purchase.
The ministry said the Government will assess the impact of the pilot before deciding on the next steps for this policy.
The Green Paper, launched on Tuesday, was accompanied by the opening of a consultation exploring views on options to change the rules on right to buy sales, supposedly to make it easier for councils to build more homes.
It also seeks views on whether the commitment that every additional home sold (as a result of the increase in discounts in 2012) is replaced on a one-for-one basis nationally should be retained, or reformed to focus on the wider supply of social and affordable housing.
That consultation closes on 9 October 2018.