Frank Field MP
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Extending the right to buy to housing association tenants would be a win-win situation

LAST week I published a pamphlet on extending the right to buy to housing association tenants. How would that policy work out in Birkenhead?

When I first came to Birkenhead, housing was the number one issue at my surgeries. That issue then disappeared. Now it is back with a vengeance. Why?

Part of the answer is that tenants now want better accommodation. Wirral Council responded by pulling down many of its properties, thereby cutting supply.

Another reason was that much of the best council stock was sold off and not replaced. So why sell more?

I may have been the first to advocate the sale of council houses. Back in 1975 I tried to persuade Labour’s Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan to make “sales” Labour’s policy.

Civil servants reported it was impossible. Mrs Thatcher got in and showed that governments could sell on a mass scale.

But Mrs Thatcher changed one key part of my original proposals – that all the money from sales should be used to build new homes.

Housing associations now have some of the best stock and most tenants in the best houses have no intention of moving. These homes rarely come up for reallocation.

My idea is to see how many of these tenants would buy, releasing capital to build new homes.

This policy would give local housing associations capital to begin a serious building programme which itself will create local employment.

It seems to me to be a win-win situation. Will the government?
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