#Budget2016 risks Right to Buy groundhog folly
Today in the Budget the Chancellor once again asserted that ‘…we are the builders’. However, this hasn’t yet been borne out when it comes to housing. In the 2015 Autumn Statement, and again in the Budget, the Chancellor set out the government’s commitment to deliver 400,000 affordable housing starts by 2020-21, including 200,000 Starter Homes and 135,000 Help to Buy Shared Ownership properties. This may be a step in the right direction to address the massive shortage of homes in the UK, but it won’t go far enough.
However, the Housing and Planning Bill currently going through parliament includes the extension of Right to Buy (RTB) to tenants of housing associations, which was announced in the Conservative election manifesto. This means tenants in housing associations will have the opportunity to purchase their home and gives them a Right to Buy discount.
The value of these housing association properties will be used to build new housing. Therefore, the most valuable properties are being targeted for sale. The government has said building will take place on a one-for-one basis.
A voluntary pilot of RTB for tenants of housing associations is currently taking place in five areas across the country ahead of the Housing and Planning Bill becoming law. However, this policy feels at odds with the need to create new homes given that we know from RTB of council housing in the 1980s that it resulted in a reduction of local authority stock and a transfer of focus to housing associations (although many fewer housing association homes were provided than those previously provided by local authorities).
The fear now is that history repeats will itself when it comes to RTB. And I remain rather sceptical about the government’s commitment for a one-to-one replacement of housing association homes sold under RTB; we shall see whether this really happens.
In the Budget the Chancellor has committed more money towards preventing homelessness which is welcome at a time when people should not be living on the street. However, one of the causes of being homeless has been the lack of housing supply, rising rental and private housing prices, which the government must do more to address.