Extending right-to-buy to tenants of charitable housing associations 'wrong in principle and practice', Lord Kerslake says

Kerslake, former permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government, criticises the measure requiring housing associations, most of which are exempt charities, to sell their homes at a discounted rate

Lord Kerslake
Lord Kerslake

The former permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government will use his maiden speech in the House of Lords to criticise the government’s plans to extend the right-to-buy scheme to housing association tenants.

Lord Kerslake, who was head of the civil service on top of his CLG role until shortly before the election and also spent two years as chief executive of the housing regulator the Homes and Communities Agency, said in a newspaper interview that he planned to use his maiden speech in the House of Lords tomorrow to say that the policy, which would likely require a change in charity law, was "wrong in principle and wrong in practice".

The government confirmed in the Queen’s Speech last week that it would press ahead with plans to extend the right to buy scheme to 1.3 million housing association tenants.

The plans would require housing associations, most of which are exempt charities, to sell their homes at a discounted rate to tenants who wish to buy. The associations would then be compensated with funds raised by forcing councils to sell their most valuable vacant homes.

Experts have expressed concerns about how charitable law could be reconciled with the notion of the government compelling them to sell their assets at reduced rates.

The National Housing Federation, the umbrella body for registered social landlords, warned before the general election that the plans would require a "fundamental rewriting of the agreement between government and civil society".

Kerslake, who from today has become chair of the housing provider Peabody, told The Observer that he would raise his concerns about the policy in its current form. "I think it’s wrong in principle and wrong in practice, and it won’t help tackle the urgent need to build more housing and more affordable housing in this country, particularly in London."

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