On 9 June, the Government announced plans to expand the Right to Buy scheme, opening it up to housing association tenants and allowing people in social housing to put housing benefit payments towards paying a mortgage on their home.
We welcome efforts to support people onto the property ladder, and to help them buy their own homes. However, we are concerned about the potential that this approach has to deplete social housing stock in London. At a time when there is already a critical housing shortage – which puts more people at risk of homelessness and makes moving out of supported accommodation difficult – this must not happen.
Any policy that takes units out of the available pool of social housing must ensure that this is compensated for. Otherwise, any benefits in terms of increased home ownership will be outweighed by the lack of affordable rental accommodation for people who need it.
As things stand there is already a need for more social housing across London. This means that even a pledge (if delivered upon) to replace any properties sold is not good enough to ensure that everyone who needs a home has one.
We see day in, day out how the dearth of available housing impacts people who have experienced homelessness. Shortages in secure, affordable accommodation create a greater risk of homelessness to begin with. Then, when we have supported people who were homeless and they are ready to find new homes, they cannot find affordable places to move on to. As such, selling housing association properties to tenants without mitigating the impact on overall housing supply risks exposing others into increasingly insecure living arrangements.
Ultimately, if the Government aims to provide people with greater housing security, it must be very careful that expanding Right to Buy does not exacerbate the existing housing crisis.