England: Housing associations vote for voluntary Right to Buy deal

David Orr
David Orr

The majority of housing associations in England have voted in favour of making a voluntary deal with the UK government to extend its Right to Buy policy.

The National Housing Federation (NHF) put forward a proposal to government that would give 2.3 million housing association tenants the opportunity to own their own home, in return for being fully compensated for the discount.

NHF chief executive David Orr and communities secretary Greg Clark presented the deal at the organisation’s national conference in Birmingham at the end of September. Housing associations were then given until October 2nd to consider the proposal and make their vote.

Out of 584 members, 370 responded and of these 55 per cent said ‘yes’ to accepting the voluntary deal, while 6 per cent said ‘no’, and 39 per cent abstained or did not respond.

The NHF said that the members voting yes to the deal represent 93 per cent of all housing association rented homes. Those that voted no, meanwhile, represent 5 per cent of all housing association rented homes. Those that abstained or did not respond represent 3 per cent.

In terms of the membership, it said that subsidiary organisations are included as groups.

Chief executive David Orr said the deal will preserve the independence of housing associations.

He said: “Last week, we asked our members whether they wanted us to put a proposal to the government on a voluntary Right to Buy. The sector has responded with a resounding ‘yes’. A clear majority of our members – covering 93 per cent of all housing association rented homes – have told us that they want us to go ahead and make an offer to government.

“Under the terms of the offer the sector has pledged a one-for-one replacement of all homes sold, which will boost the country’s housing supply. Crucially it would also preserve housing associations’ independence, which has allowed them to bring in £76 billion in private finance to homes and communities over the last thirty years.

“We are delighted to have now formally submitted this offer and it is with the government for consideration. This offer represents an opportunity for the whole housing sector to work closely with a government that has serious housebuilding ambitions.”

Speaking as the deal was proposed last month, Chartered Institute of Housing chief executive, Terrie Alafat, said: “The voluntary arrangement that the National Housing Federation is asking its members to approve recognises that housing associations are independent – and in many cases charities – and helps avoid the risk of the sector being reclassified.

“It could also provide more flexibility than might otherwise be the case.

“Full compensation for housing associations will be absolutely vital if they are going to be able to build more affordable homes for people who can’t afford to buy. We would welcome the option of giving tenants a portable discount in some circumstances where replacing the home in question would be extremely difficult.”

But she added: “We estimate that around 145,000 housing association tenants will exercise the right to buy during the first five years of the policy. It will therefore be absolutely critical that both the homes sold by housing associations and the homes sold by councils to fund the extended scheme are replaced on a one for one basis within a guaranteed timetable, so that the loss of desperately-needed social rented housing does not increase at a time when more and more people are in need. This is not happening under the current scheme – last month’s figures showed that since right to buy discounts were increased in April 2012 32,288 homes have been sold, while only 3,644 have been started or acquired to replace them.”

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