It’s been a hectic time in the run up to the Comprehensive Spending Review.
Over the last few weeks we’ve been working closely with colleagues in government, the Housing and Communities Agency, the National Housing Federation, plus the housing associations in the other four areas to debate and agree the details for the Voluntary Right to Buy pilot.
We finally agreed terms on Tuesday and the pilot was announced by the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement.
Sovereign is one of five housing associations taking part in the pilot and our scheme will operate in Oxfordshire (excluding Oxford City where we have no homes) with a limit of 200 sales. Residents living in Oxfordshire can now register an interest in buying their home on the government’s website and from January we’ll begin to process applications.
Although the extension to the Right to Buy is controversial – we’ve all seen the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report to suggest that it may reduce our social housing stock by 75,000 – Sovereign supports opportunities for our residents to achieve their aspirations, including home ownership. And at the end of the day this was a manifesto commitment that many of our residents voted for. Already more than 12% of our residents have the preserved Right To Buy, so what this potentially does is put all our residents on a similar footing.
This is why Sovereign, along with most other housing associations, signed up to the Voluntary Right to Buy scheme back in September. And given this commitment we were keen to help shape and test how the pilot rolls out and to assess demand. We also wanted to understand the practical issues and not least ensure that our supply of affordable housing is not reduced as a consequence.
We’ll continue to collaborate with our housing association colleagues, the government, the HCA and NHF, learning lessons and shaping the design so we end up with a workable and successful scheme. And of course we’ll also be sharing the learning with colleagues and our local authority partners.
Update: Thursday 10 December
It has certainly been a busy couple of weeks since the Chancellor announced Sovereign was one of five housing associations signed up to part in the Voluntary Right to Buy pilot.
We’ve had a good reaction from residents, with more than 70 already putting their names down via the government’s website already. This is a good start given the scheme is currently restricted to Oxfordshire residents with a tenancy of more than 10 years. From January we’ll start processing these applications.
We’ve also been working to shape the pilot itself; including practical questions such as what homes will be exempt from the scheme. We operate in a very rural area and we’re committed to protecting the affordable homes we hold within these communities.
Helpfully, in addition to working with government, the HCA and the NHF, I’ve been able to have a number of very useful discussions with local authority colleagues about the pilot. I am keen to hear their concerns and make sure their knowledge of their communities is incorporated in this pilot.
I know many of our residents and partners have lots of questions about the scheme, and of course how we can continue to provide much-needed affordable homes. We’ll keep you updated here as the pilot takes shape.
This blog appeared in the December issue of Sovereign News, our stakeholder newsletter.