Right to Buy changes will devastate rural social housing

The rumoured Conservative election pledge to extend the Right to Buy to 2.5 million housing association tenants could devastate the social housing sector, especially in rural communities, according to leading rural affordable housing specialist Hastoe Group.

The Right to Buy is one of the reasons that rural communities currently have so little social housing available (12% compared to 19% in urban environments), and the new proposals are likely to disproportionately impact rural communities where housing association homes are more likely to be houses as opposed to flats, and more attractive to buy.

Sue Chalkley, Chief Executive of Hastoe Group, said:

“One of the most important parts of providing affordable homes in a rural setting is doing so hand-in-hand with the local community and the mutual understanding that these homes will be kept specifically for people from that community.

“If you extend Right to Buy to these homes, you cannot prevent them from being lost to the open market. At a time when rural communities are opening up and asking for affordable homes in their local area, this change could set us back years. How many communities are going to ask for affordable housing in their local area when they could be legitimately concerned that it would be lost almost immediately?

“We know too that the pledge to replace each home sold with another affordable home does not happen – in London the 2712 homes sold since the start of 2012 have been replaced by zero homes and it is the same in rural areas.”

These proposed changes could see many housing associations collapse. With less housing subsidy available to develop, associations have had to borrow increasing amounts over recent years – borrowing secured against their housing stock. If those homes then have to be sold at a discount, many associations will breach their lending covenants.

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