Having worked in social housing for years and now living in a shared ownership scheme for older people, I wonder if anyone in the cabinet has thought through the policy of extending right to buy to properties owned by housing associations (First Edition newsletter, 9 June). How many housing association tenants could get a mortgage, bearing in mind the cost of housing, the affordability criteria of lenders, the level of wages and the benefit cap?
The proposal for tenants to use their benefits to pay a mortgage seems particularly unworkable.
I will not be seeking to use right to buy. For one thing, I don’t want the maintenance responsibilities.
I have been happily living in social housing since 1961, initially in Crawley and now in Birmingham, via various housing associations. I now live as a widower in sheltered housing provided by a very small housing association. The flexibility of social housing enabled my career moves. I was not hindered by property ownership.
I am strongly opposed to right to buy. Clearly many have made significant financial gains by accepting the subsidy. However, many former right-to-buy homes have been sold on and are now in the hands of private landlords, at great cost to the benefit system.
The dream of owning your home comes with costs and responsibilities. To suggest that benefit claimants could become homeowners is beyond belief. I have no objection to owner occupation in principle, but not by luring tenants into a dream that they cannot sustain.
Once tenants become homeowners, they are responsible for routine maintenance and improvements currently covered as part of their agreement with the landlord. As a housing officer, I saw far too many former council tenants forced to reapply for social housing when the cost of home ownership became too onerous, only to then become frustrated (and often homeless) when faced with the harsh reality of having to compete for a shrinking supply of suitable affordable rented housing due to right to buy.
Fixing the housing crisis requires a determination to address a rigged market and to ensure that enough housing is genuinely affordable. It will not be solved by reducing the already limited supply of good-quality social housing.
As a socialist, I was utterly opposed to the right-to-buy scheme when it was introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s government, and I still am. However, in 2013 my wife and I bought a former council house. The question in my mind is whether my principles were compromised by buying a house that the council was once able to let at a reasonable cost, even though it had been privately owned for some time and wasn’t ever going to be social housing again. It does niggle from time to time that I live in a lovely little house thanks to divisive scheme set up by a party I have never voted for in my life.
Balimackillichan, Argyll and Bute
Boris Johnson’s plan to extend right to buy gets my vote. I’ve been a housing association tenant renting the same home for 28 years, with no prospect of buying. It’s a gamechanger for me, and I would definitely take part in the scheme.