Voluntary Right to Buy pilot for HAs launched

A pilot of the controversial scheme to extend the Right to Buy to housing association tenants was launched in the Midlands but residents were only given one month to register their interest.

Tenants were given until 16 September to apply for a place in a ballot with those who are successful then given until Spring 2020 to complete the purchase of their home. The Treasury is providing £200m to pay for discounts on the sale prices and with expectations high that the pilot scheme will be oversubscribed, the idea for the ballot emerged. A Government spokesman said this would “ensure fairness and manage interest within the funding available”. No decision on whether to proceed with a full-scale scheme to allow HA tenants to buy their homes or a suitable equivalent at a discount, will take place before 2020 at the earliest.

A key part of the Midlands pilot will be testing the concept of portability, where tenants are able to transfer their RTB discount to buy another HA property if the one they live in is exempt. Home ownership dream Housing Secretary James Brokenshire said: “Our £200m investment into the Midlands voluntary Right to Buy pilot is the first step in helping housing association tenants to realise their dream of home ownership.” The National Housing Federation received considerable criticism for helping to shape the Midlands pilot scheme. Controversy was further fuelled by the Government’s plans to fund the expansion of the RTB scheme by forcing councils into selling their most valuable homes and then handing over the receipts. Plans to get councils to replace RTB sold properties on a like-for-like basis have spectacularly failed to deliver new homes.

Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation David Orr said: “Over the past three years, we have worked closely with the Government on its proposal to extend the Right to Buy to housing association tenants. Of course, this pilot is not the finished product. We want to take the time to get this major endeavour right. “It will be a success for everyone involved only if every home that is sold is replaced with a new affordable home, and if the application process is as smooth as possible for tenants.”

By Patrick Mooney, editor