Monday, 08 June 2015 12:52

Expert warns of right-to-buy 'disaster'

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Expert warns of right-to-buy 'disaster'

EXTENDING the right-to-buy to housing association tenants will be disastrous for rural communities, a leading academic has warned.

The government's flagship policy made "no sense," said Mark Shucksmith, director of the Newcastle University Institute for Social Renewal.

"There is already a shortage of affordable housing, especially in rural areas where there is little social housing," said Professor Shucksmith.

Rural house prices were already on average 26% higher than in urban areas – and the ratio of house prices to local earnings was even worse, he added.

Extending the right to buy to housing association tenants was a major pledge included in the Conservative Party manifesto, published in before last month's general election.

Doing so would give more people the chance to own their home by, said the document.

But Prof Shucksmith said: "Disposing of housing association stock, at great cost to the taxpayer, will make the impact on rural communities much more serious.

"We are already seeing those on low and medium incomes, and especially young people, priced out of small towns and villages across the UK.

"With housing association properties sold off, and unlikely to be replaced in any substantial quantities, the wealth divide in rural communities will deepen even further."

Prof Shucksmith has spent more than 30 years researching the effect of housing affordability on social change in rural areas.

His book "No Homes For Locals?" was published in 1981, and he has subsequently been a member of the Affordable Rural Housing Commission.

But Prof Shucksmith said the forced sale of housing association properties would affect the social and demographic make-up of rural communities – and have a knock-on effect for local employers.

The government recognised the social and economic importance of affordable rural housing in its Rural Policy Statement in 2012, he said.

With rural areas becoming increasingly socially exclusive, local businesses would find it even harder to attract the young, skilled, ambitious people they needed.

"We urgently need more affordable homes to be built, not the disposal of the few that remain in rural areas," said Prof Shucksmith.

The government should reconsider the Right to Buy extension, he added.

Instead, it should implement recent recommendations made by the Rural Housing Policy Review group, chaired by Lord Best, to provide more affordable rural housing.

"This would not only provide much-needed housing supply, but would help rural economies contribute more fully to the government's growth agenda."

Professor Shucksmith's recommendations for rural housing policy are outlined in his contribution to the Rural Housing Policy Review report, A Fair Deal for Rural Communities, which was launched in February 2015.

People in this conversation

  • Guest (Derrick Dyas)

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    Wise words indeed but, hopefully, on this web site he is preaching to the converted.
    The government introduced this commitment purely to get votes and, I imagine, are regretting their promise which they were prepared to give up if in coalition again.
    It sounds strange but the HA movement needs to help the government dig themselves out of the hole through sound argument and alternative options that look like the RTB but aren't! It is no use just expecting them to abandon the promise.

    from Dorridge, Solihull, West Midlands, UK
  • Guest (Dave Gronland)

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    I'm baffled by the argument 'Disposing of housing association stock, at great cost to the taxpayer, will make the impact on rural communities much more serious'. I understand there is an issue regarding cost to the taxpayer, but the often stated 'this removes housing' is incorrect. Surely people already live in these houses, tenants buying houses does not dispose of stock. The taxpayer building new houses I think fine, but where is the problem of selling except on the balance sheet for borrowing

  • Guest (Doris Butler)

    In reply to: Guest (Dave Gronland) Report

    Dave - there are usually more houses around to buy at market price, so selling association houses cheaply means that new families needing homes cannot have them. There should be better schemes to help people buy market price houses.

    Why should housing association residents have the priveledge of buying cheap houses compared to other families who pay high private rents, live with parents, work two jobs , to save for a deposit for a market priced house?

  • Guest (Andrew Moore)

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    A spot on analysis. Why on earth should tax payers subsidise purchase of essential affordable housing in rural areas? Where-ever the opportunity presents buyers are hoovering up smaller properties and extending them out of the affordable category.
    It is all to easy to see within fifteen years that our village will have zero indigenous residents, born and bred in the area never mind the village itself. The village will be more weakly anchored in the land as a result.

  • Guest (Liz Clegg)

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    In National Parks and other attractive locations, ex-council housing and HA properties often end up as second homes or holiday lets. There is a real problem of rented housing for local people. This is having a big affect on the social structure of rural villages.

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