Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Deal over Right to Buy 'Amounts to Blackmail'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Deal over Right to Buy 'Amounts to Blackmail'

Article excerpt

Byline: Rachel Wearmouth Regional Affairs Reporter

APROPOSAL which could see North East housing associations sign up to the controversial right-to-buy policy has been branded "crude blackmail" by a North East Labour peer.

Ministers are prepared to drop plans to legislate for an extension of the right to buy to housing associations if providers are willing to voluntarily allow tenants to buy homes from HAs if they wish. Communities Secretary Greg Clark unveiled the proposed deal this week and Britain's 1,400 HAs, many of which are charities, have seven days to sign up. The Government is framing the proposal as a compromise which opens up home ownership to HA tenants, but critics regard it as a backroom deal which could wipe out the financial clout of HAs that would allow them to build new homes.

Former Newcastle City Council leader Jeremy Beecham, now Shadow Local Government Minister, called on HAs to reject the deal.

"It is appalling," he said. "It seems to me to be crude blackmail. They are trying to bypass legislation.

"They were in real trouble on right to buy with the House of Lords because they wouldn't have stood for it." He addeD"I hope that housing associations do not back this deal." The National Housing Federation (NHF) says there are 19,620 HA tenants in the North East who would be eligible for the RTB scheme.

RTB was originally introduced for local authority homes by Margaret Thatcher and allows tenants to buy their rented home for a discount. But Lord Beecham says giving HAs a week to sign up for a deal is not enough as questions remain about the details.

"How many properties will they have to sell and over what period?" he said. "There are no incentives for housing associations to sign up to this. It is an extraordinary piece of Government strong-arming and housing associations shouldn't succumb to. …

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