Is the new right-to-buy scheme merely a boost for the private rental sector (PRS)? In my opinion, yes.
The lack of regulation surrounding the scheme is leaving the doors wide open for private landlords to take even more desperately needed social housing for a fraction of the cost.
The government claims the scheme will encourage tenants to use their universal credit to save up and get on the property ladder. However, in reality, most social housing tenants are not in the position to do so.
It is often the case that tenants turn to family, friends or even unscrupulous corporate entities to foot the bill. Covering the cost of the house gives these entities the ability to resell within a few years, maximising return in a rising market, or rent the home, feeding into the vicious renting cycle and exacerbating an existing problem.
Although the ethos behind the scheme is understandable, I see no effort in regulating how and when ex-housing-association homes can be rented or resold, undermining the whole effort of the scheme.
A simple solution would be to restrict buyers from renting these properties out for at least five years, keeping them out of the private rental market and occupied by those who actually lived there before.
Social housing landlords also now face the problem of replacing the housing stock that they sell. With the rising costs of materials and labour, housing associations are likely to find themselves out of pocket after selling homes at such a discounted price, even with a government top-up. Will this just pile even more pressure on an already stretched housebuilding sector?
However, there are some positives. The opportunity to sell off old housing stock will provide housing associations with the opportunity to ‘green up’ their portfolios and avoid costly retrofits, pushing for net zero. Ultimately, this will provide families with homes running at a fraction of the cost and will be a step towards a more sustainable future in social housing.
Louise Drew, partner and head of building communities, Shakespeare Martineau