Housing associations to sue Tories over Right to Buy

The flagship Tory policy of extending Right to Buy to housing associations could see the government embroiled in a legal battle likely to cost the tax payer millions.

PSE has already reported that the Chartered Institute of Housing believes the policy is likely to make the country’s housing crisis worse rather than better, but now it has emerged that housing associations plan to sue the government if the policy is introduced.

Tony Stacey, chair of Placeshapers, which is a group of 100 housing associations, told Inside Housing that he would “definitely” launch a challenge.

“I would definitely challenge it legally. This is so fundamentally critical to us. It would shoot up to the top of our risk map if it was confirmed. We are duty bound morally to fight it in any way we possibly can.”

Many housing association chief executives appear to share the same view point, and worry that the policy would risk the viability of the entire social housing sector.

The policy is open to challenge as housing associations are private not-for-profit businesses, therefore forcing the sale of homes at below market value could potentially breach Article 1, Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which gives everyone the “right to the peaceful enjoyment of one’s possessions”.

Charity law may also need to be changed to institute the policy as currently charities, including many housing associations, are prohibited from selling off their assets at below market value.

It appears to be a poorly thought through policy from the Tories, aimed at grabbing headlines and votes rather than having a practical application. Just like the pledge to fully fund the NHS Five Year Forward View without any detail of where the money is coming from, it seems to be all air and no substance. As election season continues we can expect more pledges like this from all parties.

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