Right to buy and right to acquire – the beginning of the end
Every indication is that right to buy and right to acquire will end in Wales within this Assembly term. Indeed, we know from the programme for government that a bill to abolish the right to buy is a legislative priority, and will likely be brought forward this year. Implementation might take two to three years to be fully rolled out, so where does that leave housing professionals in the interim? Jon Barnes, communications officer at CIH Cymru, takes a look.
The straightforward answer is business as usual. Housing professionals will, in all likelihood, need to continue processing applications. So why, you would be justified in asking, does this warrant special attention if it’s no change for now?
The first thing to acknowledge is that the level of applications has been relatively low in Wales for a number of years. With discounts across the board having been reduced, and some areas having suspended the right to buy entirely, it’s not surprising to see lower numbers. That in turn means it’s fairly feasible that there may be a gap in knowledge amongst housing professionals, particularly amongst junior staff who have only previously experienced low demand.
But if demand is low and the right to buy and right to acquire are set to end that’s not a major problem right? Not exactly. Looking to Scotland, where a similar course of action has already taken place, the publicity generated by the abolition resulted in a sharp increase in applications and enquiries. This was accentuated as the deadline approached. For example, in the period for June – August 2016 Dundee saw 109 applications, compared to 29 for the same period in the previous year. So, a possible gap in staff experience and skills, a spike in interest and an approaching deadline; the potential ingredients are there for some stressful times.
Having recognised this situation, we’ve responded by expanding our training provision around the right to buy and right to acquire. As the professional body for housing in Wales we’re always on the side of housing professionals expanding their knowledge base, but in this case we can see a fairly obvious need.
Our one day course is a refresher for anyone who will be involved with or impacted by the end of right to buy and right to acquire in Wales. We’ll be looking at the technical detail around what the rights are, who is eligible and which properties are included or excluded. We’ll take a practical look at the applications forms and procedures, the legal process and what happens after completion. The course also examines case studies looking at situations where there are ongoing possession proceedings, or where applications to suspend the right might be made.
The course takes place on 15 February, by which time we may know more about the timing of any legislation to be brought forward. In the meantime it’s vital that as a profession we keep our eyes to the horizon to identify, and respond to issues arising before they impact on business as usual.