The Government first announced plans for a shared ownership right to buy in October 2019. At the time the sector raised concerns about the impact the plans would have on housing associations ability to borrow. An election and a pandemic later the Government announced, during the CIH Housing Festival last week, the return of the right to shared ownership as part of its Affordable Homes Programme (AHP).
What does it mean?
The Secretary of State (“SoS”), under regulations following the HPA16, has the power to make ‘grants’ to housing associations in respect of right-to-buy discounts. This is the mechanism that the Government will use to refund the discounts granted on VRTB sales back to the housing association.
The Act also sets out that the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) will be required to monitor each housing association’s compliance with the ‘home-ownership criteria’. The detail of this criteria has yet to be determined but is very likely to include delivery of the VRTB. Jonathan Walters (of the HCA) has said though that compliance doesn’t need to be the VRTB and could be an alternative: the criteria is awaited with interest.
When will VRTB start?
There is still no clear timescale. The enabling legislation has permitted the SoS to make grants anytime from 26th May 2016 but in reality this will be initially just for the pilot associations. The timescales set out by the National Housing Federation (NHF) suggest that tenants will be able to start submitting applications by the end of this year.
What should housing associations be doing?
Planning and preparing.
The NHF is working with the Department for Communities Local Government (DCLG) to develop VRTB scheme ‘guidance’. Once approved by the Government, the guidance will be rolled out across the sector and housing associations will be required to develop their own VRTB policy working within that guidance. The NHF has indicated that the guidance will be issued ‘this summer’.
Housing associations should use this time to ensure that their asset registers are up to date and accurate and start thinking about the design of its eligibility and portability polices.
Our VRTB Conference on 7 June will give housing associations the opportunity to learn from the VRTB Pilot and also give practical tips on preparation for the VRTB.
For more information
Please contact Emma Holmes
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