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Assured tenants do not have a statutory Right to Buy

Most assured tenants of housing associations don’t have a statutory Right to Buy. Some assured tenants may have a ‘preserved Right to Buy’ if they were secure tenants of the local authority when ownership of their homes transferred to a housing association. 

Assured tenants who don’t have a statutory Right to Buy might have a statutory Right to Acquire (RTA) if their home was built after April 1997 with public funding. There are exemptions to the RTA, eg where the property is in a designated rural area. The RTA offers a less generous discount to eligible tenants.

A voluntary Right to Buy (VRTB) for housing association tenants (England)

The National Housing Federation (NHF) and the 2015 Coalition Government entered into an agreement to extend the Right to Buy to assured tenants of housing associations on a voluntary, rather than a statutory, basis (PDF ).

The initial pilot scheme

Five housing associations piloted the voluntary Right to Buy (VRTB) – these schemes closed in October 2016. The Autumn Statement 2016 announced Government funding for a large-scale regional pilot of the VRTB for housing association tenants. After some delay, the Autumn Budget 2017 announced the pilot would go ahead in the Midlands with £200 million of Government funding.

The Midlands pilot scheme

The pilot launched on 16 August 2018. Guidance for housing associations (PDF ) taking part was published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) in May 2018. The pilot focused on two aspects of the voluntary agreement not covered by the original pilots, namely:

  • one-for-one replacement of the sold homes
  • portable discounts (housing associations may refuse to sell certain properties but are required to offer tenants a portable discount to buy another property within the association’s stock or that of another association).

An independent evaluation of the pilot scheme was published on 8 February 2021. The Government said outcomes would be assessed before deciding on next steps for the VRTB.

No date announced for full roll-out

No implementation date for the VRTB has been announced. During a speech on 9 June 2022 Boris Johnson, then Prime Minister, said: “I want us to deliver on the long-standing commitment, made by several governments, to extend the right to buy to housing associations.”

On 13 June 2022 Michael Gove told the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Commitee that funding for discounts and replacement homes would come from “across Government”. He also referred to replacing sold homes on a like-for-like basis. The number of tenants able to exercise the VRTB would be capped and linked to the level of funding available.

On 21 November 2022, the Minister for Housing and Planning, Lucy Frazer, responded to a PQ on progress saying: “The Government is considering the next steps on the proposed extension of the Right to Buy to housing association tenants. We will work closely with the housing association sector on the approach to a new scheme and will announce more details in due course.”

On 13 September 2023, Rachel Maclean, the Housing Minister, replied to a PQ on a timetable for national rollout of the VRTB saying “The Government remains committed to the Right to Buy, which since 1980 has enabled over two million social housing tenants to become homeowners. Any future announcements will be set out in the usual way.”

Further reading


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