THE Tories’ pledge to extend the right to buy to housing association tenants could be scuppered by the House of Lords, in a move praised yesterday by social landlords.
Government plans to offer sizeable discounts to housing association tenants — to coax them into taking out hefty mortgages on their homes — face a huge setback supported by a vast majority of peers.
The Lords voted 257-174 in favour of an amendment that seeks to guarantee that charities are not “compelled to use or dispose of their assets in a way which is inconsistent with their charitable purposes.”
Many housing associations have charitable status as registered social landlords.
The damaging Conservative scheme forces councils to sell off their most valuable housing when each home becomes vacant to fund the right-to-buy extension.
The amendment was backed by cross-bencher and former head of the Civil Service Bob Kerslake — who also chairs the Peabody housing association — Labour peer Dianne Hayter, Lib Dem Monroe Palmer and the Bishop of Rochester.
Lord Kerslake said the plans would be “a major disincentive to charitable benefactors” when “the government can directly intervene and direct the sale of those assets for very different purposes.”
Housing campaigners have been fiercely critical of the extension plans since their conception, as they will rapidly reduce the number of affordable homes in England and Wales, especially in cities where demand and rents are extremely high.
The Lords effectively blocking the extension is “positive news,” said Henry Gregg, assistant director of communications and campaigns at the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations and champions the need for affordable homes.
“Charities should not be forced to dispose of their assets in ways which contradict their charitable purpose,” he added.
The housing Bill will now return to the Commons and be presented to MPs later this year.
Critics of the amendment have said that, under the Salisbury convention, the Lords should not reject a governing party’s manifesto promise, but Lib Dem leader in the Lords Jim Wallace argued that the notion was out of date.
The Tories have 228 members in the Lords, Labour has 212 and the Lib Dems have 101. There are also 178 cross-benchers.