BY DAVID ORR
Today the Conservative party publishes its manifesto which includes a commitment to extend Right to Buy to housing association tenants, funded by forcing councils to sell vacant high value properties. I’m therefore today with an update on how the Federation is responding to this and what action we are taking.
Our approach so far and latest developments
In my previous email of 26 March, I explained that we were briefing senior politicians from all parties behind the scenes on why the sector is strongly opposed to this policy. Aside from the huge impact it would have on the sector, we argued that the policy would be an ineffective use of public money, would not help end the housing crisis, and would actually impinge aspiration by stymying development.
There is also a real issue of unfairness – giving some renters and not others up to a 70% discount to buy their home – which the public will respond strongly to. We made the conscious decision at that stage to keep our engagement behind the scenes and not to launch a public media campaign before an announcement had been made. We felt there was a serious risk that this would be counter-productive, potentially entrenching the Conservatives’ position. Responses from many of you to my email on this reassured us that you took a similar view.
Now, with an explicit commitment in the Conservative manifesto to extend Right to Buy to housing association homes, we think the time has come to make our case publicly and strongly. Action plan We’ve already responded to the media with a strong statement setting out the case against the policy, backed by polling showing that the public oppose it.
Our tone and arguments are clear and robust but rational and constructive, reflecting the sector’s desire to embrace aspiration. Meanwhile, our research and policy teams are working flat out to analyse the likely impact of the policy and estimate how many homes could be built with that money if it were used as grant. These figures are included in our press statement.
We’re also preparing a member survey to find out how you anticipate these changes could affect your businesses. All this will continue to be used in meetings and conversations we are having with senior politicians and officials. Read our media statement and figures We anticipate it would take a majority Conservative government to make this policy reality.
The policy would require a change in primary legislation with all of the potential financial and legal implications needing to worked through after the election, not least with the Treasury. So there is still a long way to go before this policy could be brought into reality. You can rest assured that we will use all of our campaigning and lobbying expertise to fight this all the way.