“Housing policy risks ‘sting in the tail’ as new HRA freedoms combine with Right to Buy pilot”

“Councils received mixed messages on housing in the 2017 budget – with borrowing freedoms to help build more homes accompanied by a renewed threat of forced sales.

There was a cautious welcome for the chancellor Philip Hammond’s announcement that the government will increase the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap for a limited number of councils.

However, there was concern that the government is pushing ahead with a pilot to test the idea of forcing councils to sell high value homes to fund an extension of Right to Buy (RTB) to housing association tenants….

… Paul Dossett, head of local government at accountancy firm Grant Thornton, said: “It looks like a very small pot in total when compared to other housing initiatives announced in the budget and in other recent government announcements.”

He also called on the government to clarify what the government meant by areas of high affordability pressure.

“In our view the cap should be lifted for all housing authorities so they can plan holistically across the country to build the social housing that we need,” he said. …

… The chancellor also announced plans to press ahead with a £200m pilot extending the Right to Buy for housing association tenants in the Midlands.

Councils had hoped that the idea, along with many housing policy initiatives from former chancellor George Osborne, had been shelved after a scheduled pilot scheme failed to materialise.

But documents released alongside the budget by the Office for Budget Responsibility, said: “A small pilot scheme was due to run from January to May 2016 but was delayed to July due to the process of applications taking longer than expected and there being a longer lag between issuing instructions to solicitors and completions being achieved.

“A larger pilot was announced in Autumn Statement 2016 and was due to begin in April 2017. This did not take place. It has instead been replaced by a new pilot announced at this budget, due to run for one year from July 2018.”