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Back to the Future: revisiting “Right to Buy”

Print publication

19/03/2015

As any child of the 80s will know, Back to the Future was a box office smash hit. Another 80s smash hit, for the Conservative party seeking working class votes at least, was the Right to Buy scheme under which council tenants were able to buy their home, and get on the property ladder, at a significant discount. The scheme was hugely popular with council tenants, but has been blamed since for significantly depleting social housing stock. In a ‘Back to the Future’-like twist in time, the Tories are now looking to extend the Right to Buy scheme to housing association tenants, just as their election campaign gathers pace.

Right to Buy, which offers discounts of up to £77,000 across England (£102,700 in London), is currently only available to council tenants (or most former council tenants where the council’s housing stock has been transferred), with the majority of current housing association tenants only able to participate in a much more limited scheme [1]. If the proposal to extend Right to Buy to Housing Associations goes ahead, legislation will be required as Housing Associations are often also charitable bodies, which are legally barred from selling assets at below market value. The scheme could, however, mean that over 2 million Housing Association tenants would become eligible to buy their home.

While that might be good news for the individual tenants involved, and while supporters suggest that income derived would be reinvested in social housing and building much-needed new homes, critics argue that the proposal would have to be backed by significant public funds and would actually just further deplete social housing stock.

Karl will continue to review and report if and when these housing proposals take effect.

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[1] Right to Acquire: where the tenant has lived in the HA property for at least 5 years; the property was built or acquired by the HA since 1997; and with an available discount of up to just £16,000.

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