Right To Buy extension for housing associations 'delayed' by new Government

The policy is no longer at the top of the Government's 'to-do list' 

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The Government is to “delay” extending Right To Buy to housing associations, with the policy no longer at the top-of its “to-do list”, according to the official in charge of implementing it.

The plan, included in the Conservative 2015 general election manifesto and previously thought to be a fait accompli, would see housing association tenants offered the chance to buy their homes as big discounts, as council tenants have been able to since the 1980s.

Hilary Davies, Department for Communities and Local Government civil servant leading on the policy, however told a conference of housing associations that the “new government” was re-thinking the policy and that ministers’ views were not yet clear.

“The Brexit vote has made us think about timing and is leading to a delay in the process,” she said on Thursday, according to trade magazine Inside Housing.

“The new government is supporting Right to Buy, but you can imagine what is at the top of their to-do list currently.” 

Ms Davies added: “We have a new government as of July, and we don’t really know yet where the ministers are with regard to the details.”

She is reported to have indicated that further details of any changes to the policy could be announced in the Autumn Statement later this month. 

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesperson later played down the comments when quizzed by The Independent, stating that "nothing has changed".

The Government previously backed down on legislating to extend Right To Buy to housing associations, instead proposing a voluntary deal to the social housing providers that they could choose to implement or not.

The most controversial remaining aspect of the deal is thought to be the plan to fund the major discounts for buyers under the scheme by forcing local councils to sell off high value council homes.

Critics say the plan will further reduce affordable housing stock in inner cities and also make it harder to housing associations to build more social housing because of uncertainty about future rent revenues.

The policy's application to councils is responsible for the depletion of social housing stock, with just under half of councils flats sold under the policy now in the hands of private landlords, rather than owner-occupiers, according to a study cited by MPs.

Ms Davies made the comments at the National Housing Federation’s Smaller Housing Associations conference in London on Thursday.

John Healey, Labour's shadow housing minister, urged the Government to scrap the policy.

"I said last year that plans for a sell-off of housing association homes were unworkable and wrong. Now it seems the government is having doubts too," he told The Independent.

"It's not too late for Ministers to think again. Whatever you think about the right-to-buy, paying for it by forcing councils to sell the best of their homes to buy-to-let landlords and speculators will be disastrous. It will lead to tens of thousands of desperately needed affordable homes being lost every year at a time when they've never been needed more."

A DCLG Spokesman said: “Nothing has changed.  We remain committed to rolling out Voluntary Right to Buy for housing association tenants and will set out the timeline in due course.”

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