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Right to buy for housing association properties to be made voluntary?

Week in Westminster

Published: 25 September 2015 | Author: Michelle Vosper

We started the week with the LibDem party leader Tim Farron announcing at conference that his party would “lead the opposition to the forced sell-off of housing association properties”. In the following days there has been much discussion about whether or not LibDems in the House of Lords really could block the government’s manifesto commitment to extend right to buy.

But as it turns out this may not matter anyway, as the Conservative Party has hinted that the legislation may be dropped. Speaking at the National Housing Federation conference on Thursday, communities secretary Greg Clark said that he was open to the idea of making the proposals voluntary rather than compulsory.

According to a report in the Guardian, a deal has been negotiated between housing association chiefs and government ministers under which, if accepted, housing associations would voluntarily agree to sell homes to tenants that wish to buy them.

Housing associations have until next Friday to decide whether to agree to the deal. If voted through, it would mean the right to buy extension would not be included in the forthcoming Housing Bill and therefore not subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

Meanwhile, the government have finally floated a target for house building after successfully managing not to be draw on putting a figure on the subject during the election campaign. Housing minister Brandon Lewis projected a target of 1 million new homes in the next five years. He told the BBC’s Inside Out programme: “By the end of this parliament, success I think would mean that we have seen a build in total of something like a million homes”.

Going back to the LibDem conference, party leader Tim Farron’s keynote speech included his plans to solve the housing crisis. “Housing is the single biggest issue politicians don’t talk about. Well, we are going to talk about it, campaign on it, go on and on and one about it, and make a difference to the millions who have been ignored”, he said. His policies included building 300,000 homes a year, lifting the borrowing cap on local authorities, banning advertising UK properties to overseas investors first, a government-backed housing investment bank, and ten new garden cities. And as already mentioned, he promised to oppose right to buy for housing association properties. Mr Farron will himself be the lead housing spokesman for the LibDems.

In Wales, the Welsh government and the Home Builders Federation (HBF) have made a pact to increase housing. As part of the pact the HBF and its members have committed to maximise local jobs, apprenticeships and training opportunities from construction work, provide detailed evidence to inform housing policy, and work with housing associations to deliver affordable housing as part of private estates. While the government has committed to extend the help to buy Wales scheme, make more public sector land available for private investment, and cut unnecessary red tape.

And in Scotland, answering a range of parliamentary questions on the private rented sector, housing minister Margaret Burgess confirmed that the Private Tenancies Bill will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament in October, along with the business and regulatory impact assessment on the Bill.

And finally according to a new ResPublica report entitled After the Green Deal, we need stamp duty incentives to encourage energy efficiency upgrades at the point of sale.