Saturday, 8 July 2017

Right to Buy ban "needs explaining"

(Pic: The Guardian)

The Communities Committee published their Stage One report on the Abolition of Right to Buy Bill yesterday (pdf). In summary, their recommendations were that:

  • The Senedd support the general principles of the Bill, although committee member David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central) disagreed, believing housing supply should be increased instead.
  • The Bill should be amended to ensure the implications and details of the ban are properly explained to tenants by qualifying landlords.
  • The Welsh Government should test its draft information documents with tenants to determine if it's appropriate.
  • Monitoring should take place on the impact the Bill will have on specialist advice services.

The Abolition of Right to Buy Bill was introduced in March 2017 (explained in more detail here). Although local authorities can already suspend Right to Buy, the Bill intends to introduce a blanket ban across Wales, with a year-long "grace period" after the Act becomes law to give tenants one last chance to take up Right to Buy.

There's broad support for the Bill, primarily because of concerns about housing shortages and a lack of replacements for homes sold under the scheme. However, a representative from Tenants Wales believed the ban should only apply to new social housing, alongside the reform of the existing scheme.

Shelter Cymru even acknowledged that Right to Buy is a popular scheme that enables households to access home-ownership in communities where they're already grounded. However, they believe the scheme had become unsustainable due to a lack of new social houses being built.

On the proposed 12 months "grace period", a majority of respondents believed this was enough time for tenants to take up their Right to Buy option.

Tenants Wales questioned why the Bill proposed a one year grace period, when local authorities currently have to wait two years before applying for a new suspension of Right to Buy. Shelter Cymru and Tenants Wales were also concerned that tenants may be targeted by underhand mortgage brokers and lenders during the grace period.

Local authorities and housing associations expect a surge in Right to Buy applications in the period before the ban comes into force. It was suggested by Community Housing Cymru (CHC) that the maximum discount could be cut during the grace period and/or tenants could be made aware of other home-ownership options.

Although the Bill makes it a legal requirement for tenants to be informed of the ban coming into effect, there's little detail on precisely what information will be provided and how it would be distributed, with a danger that tenants may be confused about, or unaware of, the ban coming into force if it's not explained properly.

Shelter Cymru believe informing tenants should be the Welsh Government's job, in order to ensure there's a consistent message across Wales. Housing associations would prefer to hear from tenants themselves on what information they would find useful and the best way to present it.


Post a comment