Row looms over Tories ‘right to buy’ election pledge

NOT IMPRESSED ... Michael Farr, executive director of development for Isos Housing.
NOT IMPRESSED ... Michael Farr, executive director of development for Isos Housing.
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TORY plans to allow 1.3 million tenants to buy their housing association homes have been condemned by the boss of one of the region’s biggest social landlords.

The Conservative election manifesto includes plans to extend the Right to Buy, which was granted to council tenants under Margaret Thatcher.

If the Government proposed supermarket chains must sell off stores, or a bus operator should sell its vehicles, people would say it couldn’t be done, and they had no right to do that. So why is it considered acceptable to sell off housing association assets?

Michael Farr, Isos Housing

David Cameron placed home ownership at the heart of the Tories’ election campaign at the launch of the manifesto in Swindon yesterday.

He said: “Part of having a good life is having a home of your own.

“That’s why Conservatives have committed to building a property-owning democracy for generations, and today I can tell you what this generation of Conservatives is going to do about it.”

But Michael Farr, executive director of development for Isos Housing, which has properties on South Tyneside, said the move would be ‘a catastrophic mistake’.

Being forced to sell off its housing stock would reduce the association’s ability to raise funds for new building, he said.

“Like any independent business, we borrow money based on our assets. If a government obliges us to sell a proportion of those assets, we will not be able to borrow in the same way, or at the same rates.”

“If the Government proposed supermarket chains must sell off stores, or a bus operator should sell its vehicles, people would say it couldn’t be done, and they had no right to do that.

“So why is it considered acceptable to sell off housing association assets?”

Mark Littlewood, director-general of think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said he was “staunchly for” the approach.

He said: “All of the evidence suggests that, when you transfer the housing stock away from state ownership and into the hands of individual citizens, they feel a greater stake in society.

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