Former Conservative housing minister Kris Hopkins warned two years ago that allowing housing associations to sell their stock was a policy “potentially incurring a high liability for the public purse.”
Hopkins - the relatively low-key housing minister in post before Brandon Lewis - wrote to Liberal Democrat MP Tessa Munt in late 2013.
Details of the letter have been passed to The Observer newspaper and read: “Unlike local authorities, housing associations are independent, not-for-profit voluntary bodies and if they are obliged to consistently sell off their stock at less than market value they might find it difficult to borrow which could impact adversely on their repair and maintenance programmes and affect the future provision of affordable housing.
“The government does not consider that it would be reasonable to require housing associations to sell these properties at a discount. Any increase to the discount available under the Right to Acquire would only be possible through upfront central government subsidy, potentially incurring a high liability for the public purse.”
This statement flies in the face of the Conservative promise announced last week to permit housing associations to sell off their stock to tenants, complete with large discounts similar to those already offered to council tenants under the original part of the Right To Buy scheme.
The policy has been criticised by many in the agency and wider property industries who claim that, in the light of experience with council Right To Buy, the housing stock would be eroded through such sales.