Government proposals to sell properties from housing associations have been branded “insane” amid warnings they will exacerbate housing shortages for more than a million Britons on affordable housing waiting lists.
Boris Johnson is reportedly about to give 2.5 million housing association tenants in England the right to buy their homes at a massive discount, echoing Margaret Thatcher’s popular ‘right to buy” Politics of the 1980s, in which a large part of the country’s stock of public housing was sold.
But Labor branded the plan “desperate” and pointed out it was repeating policies from David Cameron’s 2015 Conservative Manifesto that failed to bring sales.
And the chief executive of homelessness charity Shelter said the “insane idea” was “the opposite of what the country needs”.
“There couldn’t be a worse time to sell what’s left of our last truly affordable council housing,” said Polly Neate.
“The cost of living crisis means more people are at risk of homelessness than homeownership – almost 34,000 households in England became homeless between October and December last year, more than 8,000 of which were families with children.”
Ms Neate said the original purchase law left “a huge hole” in England’s council housing stock, with less than 5 per cent of the houses sold having ever been replaced by new affordable rental housing.
“These half-baked plans have been tried before and failed,” she said. “Over a million households in England are on waiting lists for social housing and with every bill that skyrockets the government should build more social housing so that we have more, not less.”
Details of the plan were announced just days before Local elections with Tories likely headed for a beating – and during the “purdah” period, when government agencies are prohibited from making policy announcements that could affect voting.
An unnamed Government source said Mr Johnson is keen to find ways to help the ‘generational hire’ of under-40s, who have been priced out by the housing market, to become homeowners.
Conservatives have long viewed home ownership as a key driver of Tory elections, and party strategists are concerned at the prospect of a generation without participation in the housing market entering middle age.
“The PM is very excited about this,” the source said Daily Telegraph. “It could be of enormous importance.
“In many ways it’s a direct copy of Maggie’s great idea of ’buy your own council housing’.
But shadow leveling up secretary Lisa Nandy said: “This is desperate stuff from a tired government repackaging a plan from 2015.
“Millions of families in the private rental sector with little savings and faced with sky-high costs and mounting bills need far more ambitious plans to help them buy their own home.
“These proposals would exacerbate the lack of affordable housing.”
And the manager of demos Think tank Polly Mackenzie said the proposals would disadvantage some of the groups of younger voters whose support the Tories need to win.
The right to buy offers huge financial benefits to those who qualify for social housing, while it does nothing to those – often young professionals – who pay much higher rents in less secure private tenancies, she said.
“Half of the tenants work in the social sector and the other half in the private sector,” Ms Mackenzie said. “I cannot understand the politics – let alone the justice – of helping one group with a subsidy of up to £100,000 while the others are only offered a little help buying ISA and equity loans that have to be repaid.
Those who make ends meet on their own and have never had to resort to state-owned housing will get the worst offer. Extending the right to buy is a really good way to deter young renters, a group that Conservatives really need to stop abandoning.”
Liberal Democrat Treasury Department spokeswoman Christine Jardine said: “Rather than copy and paste old manifestos, Boris Johnson should be helping families on the brink. “Rather than talking about the politics of the past, Boris Johnson should now cut taxes and make sure every pensioner can afford to heat their homes.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/johnson-homes-right-buy-shelter-b2069817.html Boris Johnson has slammed the ‘crazy’ plan to sell housing association houses