Five reasons (and 10 numbers) why the Right to Buy for housing association tenants is a bad idea

Patrick Mulrenan, Course Leader for Community Development and Leadership BSc, breaks down the flaws behind the Prime Minister's latest housing policy.

Date: 10 June 2022

The government has just announced the extension of the Right to Buy to housing association tenants. Ministers say that the 1.9 million council homes sold under the scheme since 1980 demonstrate the popularity of the policy. But the proposal is flawed for five reasons:

  1. 1.1 million households are on waiting lists for social housing in the UK. This includes 120,000 children who are currently in homelessness temporary accommodation- that is, more than the number of people who live in Cambridge. With a reduction in housing association stock, they will all have to wait longer.

  2. 40 percent of council homes sold under Right to Buy are now rented out privately, at twice the rent charged by local authorities. Ironically, some of these are now rented out as homeless temporary accommodation. Local authorities spend more than £1 billion each year on temporary accommodation.

  3. A pilot scheme to evaluate the sales of housing association homes showed that each sale generated £137,000. The government has pledged to replace each of these- but the average replacement cost is £280,000. Where homes have been replaced, they have been at ‘affordable rents’- which are much higher than social rents.

  4. The same pilot found that 58 percent of properties sold were large three bedroom properties. These are exactly the sort of properties needed by households in temporary accommodation. The replacement homes were smaller.

  5. It is estimated that each housing association home sold under Right to Buy will cost the government £65,000. Why? Because housing associations have taken out loans to build them and these debts have to be covered. Over 10 years, this will cost the Treasury £14.6 billion

So why does the government plan to spend billions of pounds reducing the stock of affordable homes. Many believe that this is due to a final number- 40 percent of Boris Johnson’s own party recently voted against him in a no-confidence vote.

patrick mulrenan