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The Conservatives' attempt to extend the Right To Buy policy and apply it to housing association homes in addition to council flats and houses has received a frosty reception.

The Conservatives say up to 1.3m housing association tenants could buy their homes at a discount as a result.

Currently some 800,000 housing association tenants have a "right to acquire" homes under smaller discounts, but the Conservatives would significantly boost those discounts and extend the scheme to those who currently have no purchase rights at all, estimated to be about 500,000 people.

If the discounts match those given to council tenants, the sums involved would be considerable: the maximum discount is £77,900 across England, except in London boroughs, where it is £103,900.

The Conservatives say every house purchased will be replaced "on a one-for-one basis" with more affordable homes and no-one will be forced to leave their home; however, the Tory manifesto unveiled yesterday speaks only of a pledge to build 400,000 new homes.

Some analysts criticise the old Right To Buy policy for effectively removing social housing - in the form of council flats and houses sold cheaply to tenants - without replacing them in sufficient numbers, effectively worsening the overall housing problem.

Since Margaret Thatcher introduced Right To Buy for council properties in 1980, just over two million council homes have been sold; around 345,000 replacements have been built.

Tory proposals to unlock brownfield land for housebuilding could perhaps have more far-reaching tremors through the market, but many will be speculating today whether 400,000 homes over a five year period is truly enough to abate our current housing shortage says Adrian Gill, director of Your Move and Reeds Rain estate agents.

The expansion of Right To Buy may be good politics but represents terrible policy says Adam Challis, head of residential research at estate agency and consultancy JLL.

He went on: "This is exactly the kind of short-termist thinking that the countries' 4.7m households in social housing don't need, not to mention the same number again of aspiring owners in private renting. Right to Buy benefits a select few while condemning the vast majority to longer waiting lists and fewer choices.

The criticism was echoed in other quarters.

It carries no guarantee of greater house building as a result. The danger is that it will weaken the future capacity of the social renting sector to provide a safety net for those who cannot afford to house themselves via the private market. The risk is that in this manifesto along with others we will get more short term initiatives and that politicians will continue to avoid owning up to the need for a fully formed housing strategy that balances support for people across all forms of tenure says Peter Williams, executive director of the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association.

Gavin Smart, deputy chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, says he is very concerned that it would result in a dramatic loss of vital social and affordable housing.

Times columnist and well-known Conservative supporter Tim Montgomerie tweeted yesterday, after the launch of the Tory manifesto: The right-to-buy policy needs a housebuilding policy alongside it - otherwise it repeats the errors of the 1980s.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, says if housing associations are obliged to offer tenants discounts of, in some cases, over £100,000 then the Tory pledge to have homes built to replace those sold off is a hollow joke.

He gives the example of Phoenix Community Housing in London which recently sold a home worth £210,000 on the open market for just over half of that. From the proceeds, some went back to the Treasury, some to the local authority leaving a receipt of just £27,000. Have you tried building a new home for £27,000 asks Orr.

Shelter said this policy was another nail in the coffin for affordable housing....already seen outright failure to replace like-for-like homes sold under Right To Buy [council properties.]

The only property industry voice that appeared to back the move without reservation was high-end estate agency Jackson-Stops & Staff. We are delighted to see the right to buy being extended to housing associations. Jackson-Stops supports any initiative that enables social housing tenants to buy their own property, provided that the funds realised are reinvested in the sector says JSS chairman Nick Leeming.

Amongst consumer groups, the HomeOwners' Alliance also welcomed the initiative. Enabling people to buy their housing association homes will help thousands of people realise their dreams says HOA chief executive Paula Higgins.

Right To Buy for council tenants is being abolished by the SNP-controlled government in Scotland and the Labour-controlled administration in Wales.


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    This latest right to buy initiative of David Camerons (if you can call it that) is mainly ideologically driven as was Thatchers original scheme and has nothing to do with providing a joined up and intelligent housing policy, but follows a blind belief that anything social and publicly funded is Bad and that throwing anything and everything open to the free market is good and will solve all the country's problems

    • 15 April 2015 16:46 PM
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    @Rob Davies

    I said that the Right to Buy was marvelous thing. It only failed to work as councils did not use the cash raised to build replacements, because they were not obliged by law to use the proceeds to build more replacement 'council houses'.

    • 15 April 2015 13:51 PM
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    So in that case it was a terrible thing. Given we still haven't recovered from its legacy, I would suggest that Thatcher's Right to Buy was in fact completely disastrous. How many of those council homes are now owned by BTL landlords

    • 15 April 2015 10:19 AM
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    This is a really stupid idea, the tenants and the associations are on to a good thing. Their housing has already been subsidised by the government (our taxes). All councils should set up a housing department to build more and more 'council owned houses'. The borrowing would be paid off within 15-20 years and the problem would be mainly solved.

    The Thatcher 'Right to Buy' was a marvelous thing. It failed to work because councils were not obliged by law to use the proceeds to build more replacement 'council houses'

    • 15 April 2015 09:38 AM
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    Does anyone think this is a good idea If they do, they're keeping very quiet about it.

    Seriously, who is advising the Tories This is an absolute abomination of a policy, just totally ludicrous, and it's completely right that scorn has been poured on it from all four corners.

    Are they really so out of ideas that they have to revive a flagship policy from the 80s, one that caused the housing crisis we have now

    Totally agree with everything that's been written here. It's just bonkers.

    • 15 April 2015 08:50 AM
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    They've been promising this for decades, so this is nothing new. It will never come to fruition, though. Firstly, because the Tories will never, ever get a majority again. If they couldn't manage it in 2010, they won't manage it now. Secondly, it's such a brainless and moronic scheme that does absolutely nothing to eradicate the housing shortage. It's a shameless vote pleaser that will benefit a small minority of people but allows the Tories to describe themselves as the party of working people - honestly, how much contempt do they have for us, thinking we'd buy such obvious lies

    And what does it say to people in the PRS, paying considerably chunks of their salary on sky-high rents, desperately trying and failing to cobble together a deposit. What does it say to young people still living at home with their parents, who need more affordable houses to be built to give them a glimmer of hope that they might actually one day own their home.

    Lack of supply is the major issue. Let's flood the market with affordable houses, bring the ridiculous property prices down to something resembling normal, and remember the fact that everyone deserves a home to live in. It should be a right, not an investment opportunity. Thatcher's RTB was a disaster for housing in this country, the legacy of which we are still suffering from today. To do it again would be criminal.

    • 15 April 2015 08:44 AM
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    Disastrous policy. Absolutely disastrous. Does nothing to solve the housing crisis - rather than build more social housing, which the country is in desperate need of, let's just sell it off. Nice one, Dave!

    All it does is flood the market with even more buy-to-let merchants, prevents even more young people from getting on the property ladder, increases rents in the PRS and diminishes our already limited housing stock.

    Pathetic revival of Thatcher's Right to Buy scheme that got us into this mess in the first place. I'm glad it's been seen by most as the shameless election bribe that it is. Nearly every major body has criticised it. In fact, other than Dave and his cronies, I've not seen anyone who thinks this is a good idea.

    Plus, the houses aren't actually the government's to sell. They belong to the not-for-profit housing associations. Completely idiotic proposal.

    • 15 April 2015 08:36 AM
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    We recently sold a block of 8 houses to a housing association. The Tenants were given notice and three moved on. The housing association then contacted the other five and housed them in there existing property at a lower rent with a refund of the damage deposit. How does this help the housing 'crisis' as they call it. They are just about building up their business. Our Tenants included a policeman and working couples and few had children.
    The housing association get cheap funding and cheap property sold to them under 106 Agreements so they can easily sell them cheap.

    • 15 April 2015 08:07 AM
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