The House of Lords has set the cat amongst the pigeons on the government proposal to give housing association tenants the right to buy their properties with discounts, in the style of council tenants.
During the election campaign the Conservative party pledged to extend the Right To Buy scheme to over 1.3 million housing association tenants. Since being elected, the party in government has pledged that receipts from selling an owner’s current property will help housing associations to build replacement affordable homes on a one-for-one basis.
However, the Lords has now voted by 257 votes to 174 in favour of an amendment to the Housing Bill which would prevent charities being “compelled to use or dispose of their assets in a way which is inconsistent with their charitable purposes”.
Many housing associations are charities so if this amendment survives the remaining stages of the Bill’s passage through Parliament, it may be an opportunity to overturn the pledge.
One of the Lords instrumental in getting the amendment debated and passed was the Liberal Democrat peer Monroe Palmer - also chairman of the advisory panel of the Property Redress Scheme.
Another supporter of the amendment - cross-bench peer and former housing civil servant Lord Kerslake - is chair of the Peabody housing association and said in the Lords that the government’s plans would be “a major disincentive to charitable benefactors ... to donate their money or land to good causes when the government can directly intervene and direct the sale of those assets for very different purposes”.
The Commons will have to vote in favour of the amendment before it passes into law.