Senior Conservative ministers are considering extending the right-to-buy scheme to housing association property.
David Cameron could reintroduce Margaret Thatcher’s right-to-buy housing scheme with a “big doorstep offer” in the Conservative party manifesto to working-class voters.
Downing Street sources have told the Sunday Times that the prime minister is backing a plan by Iain Duncan Smith to allow housing association tenants to buy their own homes at less than the market price. The Tories see the plan as reviving the property-owning democracy that took them to election victory in the 1980s.
Since the right-to-buy scheme was introduced in 1980 over 2m council houses have been sold, but at present it is possible but difficult for those living in housing association properties to buy their homes.
The Sunday Times also reports that plans to be announced next month by the Conservatives will say that councils are to be ordered to sell off “big expensive council houses” to pay for a larger number of cheaper homes.
The theory goes that the money raised from selling off the housing association properties would be used to build more new affordable homes.
The scheme is being promoted by the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith and follows previous Coalition initiatives in housing like the Help to Buy and Build-to-Rent schemes, designed to help workers onto the property ladder and ease the housing shortage.
Housing is now one of the key electoral issues, with the young and families being forced to rent for much longer than in the past, and some cannot envisage ever owning their own homes. Senior Conservatives believe that extending Right to Buy would attract “C2 voters” – the skilled working class.
Under the housing association system as it stands, there is a “Right to Acquire”, but tenants must have lived in the house for at least five years and the housing association must have built or bought the home or had it transferred from a council post 1997.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Right to Acquire discounts are fixed from £9,000 to £16,000, whereas Right to Buy allows discounts of up to £77,000 across England, except London where the maximum is £102,700.
Housing associations currently house around five million people in England, in 2.5million homes.
Opponents of the system say it has created a shortage of housing for low income families but others believe it is helping create a home owning democracy by helping millions of people onto the property ladder.
Chief executive of Notting Hill Housing, who wrote a report on the issue for the Centre for Social Justice, has told the Daily Telegraph that she did not think that housing associations would be averse to the proposal, but said that the associations would not be able to subsidise the discount.
“The discounts for housing associations are very small at the moment, so our tenants are not in a position to use the Right to Acquire. The very big discounts available on council houses make them affordable, but it would be important to ensure that housing associations were able to replenish housing stock.”
David Cameron could Reintroduce Right-to-Buy Housing Scheme in Conservative Party Manifesto to Working Class Voters – http://t.co/8XQN2k4M6N
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) March 26, 2015