The row over allowing housing association tenants to buy their homes at a big discount continued this week with the Liberal Democrats digging out a letter sent by then Conservative housing minister Kris Hopkins (pictured) in October 2013.
Hopkins sent the letter to Lib Dem MP Tessa Munt. It revealed that at least some in the Conservative party know the policy is “deeply unfair” and would damage communities.
Hopkins’ letter stated: “Housing associations are independent, not-for-profit voluntary bodies and if they are obliged to consistently sell off their stock at less than market value they might find it difficult to borrow which could impact adversely on their repair and maintenance programmes and affect the future provision of affordable housing.
“Any increase to the discount available under the Right to Buy would only be possible through upfront central Government subsidy, potentially incurring a high liability for the public purse.”
The Lib Dems said that by allowing social housing tenants to purchase their homes at a large discount, the Right to Buy policy would lead to longer waiting lists for homes and fewer social houses, doing nothing to tackle the country’s affordable housing needs and only benefiting the lucky few.
Commenting on the letter, the Liberal Democrat housing spokesman Stephen Williams said: “It beggars belief that the Conservatives have made these plans the centrepiece of their manifesto despite knowing the damage they would have on communities.
“That they are pushing ahead despite privately acknowledging the terrible effect their policy will have on affordable housing stocks and the UK’s finances is a damning indictment of their priorities.
“They are so transfixed by Margaret Thatcher’s failed 1980s ideology they are prepared to sacrifice their economic credibility and deepen Britain’s housing crisis.”
The Conservatives said they had put the extension of the Right to Buy scheme to housing association tenants at the heart of their manifesto, claiming up to 1.3m tenants could buy their homes at a discount as a result.
Under current rules, about 800,000 housing association tenants have a “right to acquire” their homes under smaller discounts, but the Conservatives would offer those people the same reductions as for those in local authority homes.
They will also pledge to extend the scheme to those who currently have no purchase rights at all, estimated to be about 500,000 people.