03 May 2022

CIH responds to Government plans to revive Right to Buy for housing association tenants

Coverage over the weekend (1 May 2022) suggests that Government is considering reviving the Right to Buy scheme by giving people the chance to purchase the properties they rent from housing associations at a discounted price.

Whilst CIH is supportive of measures to help people into home ownership, extending the Right to Buy to housing associations is not the right policy to achieve this. It would lead to a reduction in the overall number of affordable homes with little prospect of homes sold being replaced on anything like a one for one basis.

We are at a point of crisis in this country, with over 1.1million households on waiting lists for social housing. The number of households living in temporary accommodation has nearly doubled in the last decade. We need more, not less, affordable social homes.

As we shared recently, analysis by Professor Alan Murie for the 2022 UK Housing Review concludes that the right to buy has led to an erosion of the stock of social rented homes, many of which have, through subsequent sales, found their way into the unregulated private rented sector (currently 40 per cent and likely to continue to rise), thus undermining the ambition to boost home ownership. Whilst government has made commitments in the past to ensure homes sold through right to buy are replaced, less than five per cent of the homes sold off have ever actually been substituted.

The Right to Buy, already ended in Scotland and Wales, comes at a significant cost to the taxpayer. Experience shows that previously affordable rented housing often passes (via a period of owner occupation) into the private rented sector with higher rents, which in turn pushes up the taxpayer-funded benefit bill and adds pressure to local authority waiting lists and temporary accommodation costs.

Finally, it should be recognised that the government is talking about selling assets that do not belong to them. They belong to housing associations, often charitable organisations, which exist to provide benefit to the community, holding their assets in trust for the community by providing affordable homes for rent. Forcing the sale of assets risks nationalising them and their debt which will damage funder confidence and impact on their ability to build more and maintain existing stock.

We would urge government to think again. The extension of Right to Buy should only take place if there are proper measures to replace the social rented homes lost and to compensate housing associations. Home ownership is a legitimate aspiration for government policy but cannot be at the expense of the poorest households. At a time of rising living costs and increasing pressure on the housing system we need to be focussed on building more social homes, not selling off existing stock.

For more information on CIH’s analysis of Right to Buy see: