The head of a prominent brand in a fast-expanding lettings and sales agency group has given a cautious welcome to government plans to extend Right To Buy.
Boris Johnson’s proposal to extend RTB to housing association tenants - complete with deep discounts for long-standing renters - is described as one answer to housing market issues, but not the whole answer.
That’s the view from David Alexander, head of DJ Alexander Ltd - part of the fast-growing Lomond Group.
He says RTB was a vote winner when introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s but does nothing now to address long standing issues within the housing market and simply delays a proper review of the housing sector.
Alexander - a prominent figure in the Scottish lettings industry - says that although the policy will only apply in England for the moment there is little doubt that momentum will build for it to be re-introduced in Scotland.
“While this policy will be a vote winner for Boris Johnson in key regions the implementation of this plan does not address the need for substantially more housing as a whole. If it is introduced in the same way that it was in the 1980’s, then the key issues which have dominated the housing market for the last two decades will simply be exacerbated by the move.
“There is also no doubt that, despite the SNP’s ideological objections to selling off social housing, there will be insurmountable pressure to match the policy in Scotland as tenants, who are also voters, would demand that they benefit from discounted house prices in the same way as English tenants.”
He continues: “Interestingly, it was the sale of council housing in the 1980’s that led directly to the substantial growth of the private rented sector. The sale of social housing only exacerbated the need for more housing as demand continued to exceed supply. This policy will only work if the funds gained from social housing sales are reinvested in more social housing rather than simply absorbed into other government spending.”
However, despite reservations Alexander says the Prime Minister has undoubtedly touched a nerve with the idea of extending Right To Buy.
“Home ownership undoubtedly scratches an itch, a desire among the electorate to be homeowners and the discount to make it more affordable to a wider population. But caution is required as selling social housing needs to be matched with the building of more social housing supply. At the same time support for the private rented sector is also required as there are many who don’t want to buy for a variety of reasons.”