There is one persistent mistruth in the debate about the wisdom and complexity of requiring Housing Associations to sell homes to their tenants at a discount. The critics say that this will reduce the number of social homes available. Let me reassure them. No-one demolishes or destroys the home when it is sold. The same family that rented it carry on living in it as homeowners. The housing stock and the living arrangements remain identical pre and post sale.
It is true that when the family who lives there dies, or decides to move, the home is now in the private rather than the public sector. As turnover of social housing is very low, it takes a long time on average before a social home becomes available for someone else to rent. The government’s policy of home sales will increase the available supply of social houses, by insisting on the construction of a new home for every home sold to tenants. This means that following the new build a social home is instantly available. Had the tenant of the social home who purchased still been a tenant, there would have been no empty home to rent.
Ministers do have to work out how to implement this pledge. They will not wish to leave a housing charity worse off as a result. They will need to be compensated for the discount on true value that the tenant enjoys when buying his property. They will need to work closely with the subsidised social housing providers to ensure maximum new construction for the available subsidy, and to ensure fair compensation for charitable assets.