There has been much speculation over the last few months about extending Right to Buy to housing association tenants. What more do we know now the Queen has sat down that we didn't know last week? We know there will be a housing bill and that extending Right to Buy will be part of it, but that's about it. Quite how much of the detail has been worked out behind the scenes and how much is still up for grabs remains to be seen.
If Right to Buy is extended, it goes without saying that we need to replace homes sold with similar homes in the same area if we don't want to exacerbate the housing crisis. This hasn't happened in the past, but Government have said they have plans in place to make sure it works this time around, so let's park that for now. But if we are going to properly tackle the housing crisis and help people living with their parents into their 30s, and stuck in poor quality, yet eye-wateringly expensive, private rent, we need to build lots more social and affordable homes, not just maintaining the status quo.
One thing should be clear - housing associations want to help people meet their housing aspirations. Whether that is through low cost homeownership, great homes for rent, or homes for sale on the open market, we want to do more. But to build, we need to borrow. And to borrow, we need assets we are in control of and a secure income we can rely on. Right to Buy, regardless of how it is implemented and what the rules are, could make this much more difficult.
The Government estimates selling off high value council homes could generate £4.5billion a year, some of which will pay for very generous Right to Buy discounts. Undoubtedly this will help the lucky ones who benefit from these discounts. But over a quarter of a million new homes for shared ownership could be built every year with that kind of money, helping many more people who need a leg up on to the housing ladder.
And let's not forget, housing associations are independent private businesses. Forcing them to sell their assets seems to be an odd move for a Conservative government, and sends a message that will clearly worry many other charities and businesses.
In a nutshell, extending Right to Buy could mean us doing less of the things we are really good at that help our country thrive. Housing associations and Government have a shared ambition to help more people into home ownership. What housing association wouldn't want to see their tenants be given the chance to buy a home of their own if it is right for them, freeing up a social or affordable home for a family who needs a secure affordable place to live? So we need to take this chance to pause, take a deep breath, and work together to find a way to make that happen in a way that doesn't jeopardise our ability to do more or call into question our independence.
Catherine Ryder is head of policy at the National Housing FederationSuggest a correction