The Conservative party manifesto pledge was to offer 1 million people the Right to Buy their social housing homes. Government seem committed to this policy. There are significant ramifications for our sector.
Sue Chalkley OBE, chief executive of SHIFT landlord Hastoe Housing Association, has spent some time considering the impact on rural communities. Here we bring you her thoughts on the topic.
Sue Chalkley had the following to say:
We support the rest of the sector in pointing out the issues that this announcement causes and are working to make the particular case for rural communities.
The case for rural communities (when I use the term affordable please read it in the traditional sense rather than a form of tenure).
RTB is more attractive to tenants in houses than flats – this was why the discounts for flats were higher than for houses. In fact, CLG data shows that an average of 20% of homes sold under the RTB from 1986 to 2014 were flats. This statistic matters because social housing in rural communities is mainly houses. We know that the RTB in past years has impacted more on rural communities than urban communities. It is largely responsible for the fact that rural communities only have 12% social housing compared to 19% in urban communities.
This announcement comes at a time when new supply of rural affordable homes has been reduced by 50-60%. This will be the impact of the government’s announcement that developers should not be required to provide affordable housing on small sites of less than 10 homes.
So… rural communities have less affordable housing now and will have much less built in the future – and now could have more of its social homes sold off. There is a very real risk that the proportion of affordable homes in rural communities will drop dramatically.
This doesn’t just impact on people who need homes but it means that it is even harder to move home to avoid paying the ‘Under Occupancy Penalty (Bedroom Tax), to move for work or for social reasons.
There are also specific issues about Rural Exception Site schemes which are that:
- Landowners will stop making land available at a low price if they think someone else is going to make a big profit on the home in the future or if they think that the home will not be protected in perpetuity for people with a connection to the community.
- Local people will lose confidence in housing associations and not want to ask us to develop schemes if we cannot guarantee that the homes will be held in perpetuity for people with a local connection to the village.
In addition the government has suggested that replacement homes would be partially funded by local authorities. In Hastoe’s area only 43% of Local Authorities own their own stock – so where does the money come from?
The government seems to be open to an exemption for Rural Exception Sites. This is good but our worry is that by doing this the government will think it has addressed the whole rural issue, which this doesn’t. So we are working with others on a definition of ‘rural’ that all rural bodies can sign up to. Our plan is then to promote this to the government, so that if it is willing to protect rural communities, it really does exempt rural and not just Rural Exception Sites.
How is RTB impacting on you?
Take our survey with Inside Housing on how the extension of the Right to Buy scheme is impacting/ will impact your retrofit plans – CLICK HERE.
We welcome your comments and views.