Anger as Scots Tories defend Right to Buy expansion

RuthDavidsonMSP20120529Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson (pictured) has launched a fierce defence of Right to Buy as prime minister David Cameron announced plans to “radically expand” the scheme in England.

We reported yesterday that the Conservative manifesto includes a commitment to expand Right to Buy to more than 1.3 million families in England who are housing association tenants.

Housing is a devolved issue in Scotland and the Scottish Parliament voted in 2013 to end Right to Buy from 1 August 2016. Tenants with a Right to Buy that they are allowed to use will have until 31 July 2016 to do so.

The Scottish Conservatives did not propose to expand Right to Buy to housing association tenants in their 2011 manifesto, but a party spokesperson confirmed after Cameron’s announcement that they would broadly support the same move in Scotland.

Ruth Davidson went on to tell Scottish Housing News: “Thousands of Scots families have benefitted from Right to Buy in the past and it is hypocrisy of the worst kind for Labour and the SNP to pull the ladder from behind them.

“David Cameron’s announcement will not only see a whole new generation of families benefit from home ownership down south, but will also see millions of pounds flow to local authorities to build more affordable homes.

“In contrast, this time next year, families in Scotland will be banned from any similar kind of leg up.

“Helping people onto the property ladder is about encouraging aspiration and providing security for families. Banning it is simply big-state ideology.”

Annie Mauger, executive director of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH)’s national business units in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, said: “Right to Buy in Scotland is due to come to an end next year after the Housing (Scotland) Act was passed in 2014. CIH Scotland fully supports the abolition – we need to be doing everything we can to maximise our supply of affordable housing for people on lower incomes, not selling it off.

“We would have grave concerns about the measure being proposed by the Conservative party in England, to extend the right to buy to housing associations. As CIH deputy chief executive Gavin Smart has said, it is not going to tackle the housing crisis – in fact it could make things worse for people on lower incomes who are already struggling to access a decent home at a price they can afford.

“Individual tenants might benefit from the opportunity to own a home, but we would be very concerned that it would result in a dramatic loss of vital social and affordable housing.”

Gordon Maloney, president of NUS Scotland and Living Rent Campaign activist, said Davidson’s comments “seem completely detached from reality” and a “huge portion of the blame for today’s housing crisis can be laid squarely at the feet of Right to Buy”.

He added: “Families and young people have been forced into precarious and expensive tenancies in the private rented sector, and are now facing devastating choices, between paying rent and feeding themselves, between heating their homes and meeting housing costs. We desperately need to be replenishing social housing stocks – building thousands of new homes – and regulating the private rented sector to ensure that tenants aren’t forced into poverty.

“The Scottish Government was absolutely right to scrap Right to Buy, but we now need to undo the damage it did. Bringing back the rent controls that Thatcher scrapped is one obvious way to make the private rented sector function more like the socially rented sector, in terms of affordability and security.”

Responding to Cameron’s proposals yesterday, Mary Taylor, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, added: “We whole heartedly welcomed the announcement in 2013 that Right to Buy would end in Scotland. The SFHA and our members campaigned for its abolition for years, and we congratulated the Scottish Parliament for bringing about its demise.

“Right to Buy has had its day and has no place in 21st Century Scotland. It has been beneficial to a relatively small number of individuals but clearly a loss to the greater public good. Approximately half a million social rented homes have been lost in the 35 years of this policy in Scotland, very often the better stock in the more popular areas.

“Our concern is that, if Right to Buy were extended in England, as proposed, there could be knock-on effects for much-needed lending for affordable housing in Scotland.”

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