A Bill to abolish the right to buy in Wales is set to be introduced in the National Assembly today (Monday).
The Right to Buy and Associated Rights (Wales) Bill will abolish the Right to Buy for council tenants and the Right to Acquire and Preserved Right to Buy for housing association tenants.
As ministers have already signaled, the aim is to preserve the social housing stock from further reduction, ensuring it is available to provide safe, secure and affordable housing for people who are unable to take advantage of the housing market to buy or rent a home.
Given support from both Labour and Plaid Cymru, the Bill should complete its passage through the Assembly by the end of the year. The Right to Buy would end after a period of at least a year following Royal Assent.
If it does, Welsh Government will inform councils and social landords within a month of Royal Assent, and they will have to inform tenants within one more month. Qualifying tenants will then have a further ten months to decide whether to apply to buy.
Another provision in the Bill would protect development programmes by ending the Right to Buy for new homes within two months of Royal Assent. The aim is to help social landlords build without fearing that they would have to sell off the homes as soon as they are built.
The Right to Buy has already been abolished in Scotland and Northern Ireland could end the equivalent for housing association tenants. In contrast, the English government has increased discounts and has pledged to extend the Right to Buy to housing association tenants and sell council homes to pay for it.
Welsh landlords have sold off 139,000 homes – almost half its social housing stock – since the introduction of the Right to Buy.
Ahead of the Bill’s introduction, communities secretary Carl Sargeant said:
‘Our social housing is a valuable resource, but it is under considerable pressure. The size of the stock has declined significantly since 1980 when the Right to Buy was introduced. The number of sales is equivalent to 45% of the social housing stock in 1981. This has resulted in people in housing need, many of whom are vulnerable, waiting longer to access a home they can afford.
‘The Bill supports the Welsh Government’s wider aims of a more prosperous and fairer Wales, helping to tackle poverty by protecting our stock of social housing from further reduction.
‘I recognise the proposal affects existing tenants and we will ensure tenants are made aware of the effect of the Bill in good time before abolition takes place. The Bill will require the Welsh Government to publish information, which social landlords in turn must provide to every affected tenant, within two months of the Bill receiving Royal Assent.
The minister said abolition would complement other programmes to support people in housing need and meet its target of creating 20,000 affordable homes in this term of government.
Councillor Dyfed Edwards, Welsh Local Government Association spokesperson for Housing and Plaid Cymru group leader, said:
‘At a time of acute shortages of social rented homes, and with many thousands of people currently on housing waiting lists, the proposal from the Welsh Government to abolish right to buy is a welcome step in tackling a growing problem in Wales. It is essential that people’s access is improved to good quality social rented housing in order to enhance people’s lives, and also to revitalise local communities.’
The maximum Right to Buy discount in Wales was halved to £8,000 in 2015.
Four councils – Carmathenshire, Swansea, Anglesey and most recently Flintshire – have successfully applied to suspend sales for five years in their areas under previous legislation.
Cardiff has applied for a suspension and other local authorities, including those that have done a stock transfer, could also apply if they wish.
Matthew Dicks, director of CIH Cymru, said:
‘We have a huge shortage of affordable housing in Wales and CIH Cymru supports any measure that will stop the further loss of social housing stock which is what this bill intends to do.
‘However, the main issue is that we have failed to sufficiently replace the social housing stock that we have already lost to schemes such as the Right to Buy. The Welsh Government must ensure that building new homes, and getting the mix of those new homes right, remains at the top of its agenda moving forward, particularly if we are to meet the Welsh Government target of 20,000 new affordable homes.
‘There may also be a direct impact on many of our members from the local authority and stock transfer sector in terms of a possible flood of applications during the year-long run-in period, and we will need to work closely with them to negate any negative impact on resource.’