Ready for right to buy?
Right to buy for housing associations – the policy many people never expected to see the light of day – is coming. Is your organisation ready? CIH marketing officer Mark Swaddle rounds up the debate and the best tips that emerged from our Home ownership and leasehold managers’ conference earlier this month.
It’s April 2015, one of the closest and most unpredictable elections of our time is rapidly approaching, and all parties are scrambling to win over the swathes of still-undecided voters. The Conservatives have been pushing home ownership for the past five years as part of the coalition government and now they make a manifesto pledge which seems to be out of the blue (pardon the pun). The reaction from the housing sector is huge – uproar at the potential loss of social rented homes and the legal viability of such a scheme, not to mention the wider debate around its moral fairness and the lack of proposals to make housing more affordable for private renters.
Fast forward a few months. The Conservatives win the election outright and are forced to follow up on their pre-election pledge, so begin announcing some of the finer details on the scheme. However, it’s not long before the new government announce plans for a rent reduction for social housing, which has massive implications for housing providers and their business plans, causing some to rethink their business model entirely; suddenly, right to buy isn’t quite the biggest challenge faced by the sector anymore.
So here we are now. It’s 2016. The post-Christmas and new year buzz has worn off, the right to buy pilot is underway and we’re expecting to see the changes implemented in the coming months. But the question is: are you prepared? Have you thought about how it will affect your organisation? And do you have procedures in place to deal with the changes?
On day one of the Home ownership and leasehold managers conference, leasehold manager Ashley Parrette delivered an excellent session on how Southern Housing Group plans to approach the roll-out. Here’s a recap in case you weren’t able to attend:
- Admin fee: an admin fee which is required right up-front will help to deter speculative applications and keep volumes to a manageable level.
- Financial assessments: applicants will be assessed to make sure they can afford to buy, ensuring that ownership will be sustainable and they won’t fall into debt. During the presentation, this sparked some debate around our responsibility as housing providers, and whether we should get involved here. We ran a Twitter poll to find your thoughts, and I think the results say a lot about our sector, and the social purpose which drives us.
- Restrict sub-letting for longer: as part of the roll-out, SHG intends to restrict sub-letting as much as possible. This is to ensure that the scheme is operating as intended (to help long-standing social tenants become home owners) – an area where we can learn from the past.
- A right to buy back: building this into the organisation’s procedures will help to retain homes for social and affordable rent.
- Barring people from applying for a period if their applications are withdrawn or denied: this will prevent habitual or repeat applications and help to reduce strain on admin teams.
How many of these had you already considered and how many will you be looking into now?
Aside from these points, it’s also important to consider exemptions from the scheme. In preparation for the launch, make sure your organisation has a clear policy on which properties will be exempt from the right to buy, so you’re ready when the applications start coming through.
You can download Ashley’s full presentation to find out more about SHG’s plans. I caught up with Ashley after his presentation – here’s what he had to say on SHG’s plans:
Want to find out more?
- Sign up to our training course, 'Right to buy and right to acquire' (2 March 2016, London)
- See our right to buy training and advice page from CIH consultancy
- Sign up to our member-only CPD module on right to buy