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Housing association relations still 'strained' over extended right-to-buy

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Relations between councils and housing associations are still recovering from the fallout of the government’s pledge to extend the right-to-buy, according to housing chiefs.

Local authorities and housing associations are now being urged to repair relations and work together to build the homes the country needs.

The Chartered Institute of Housing has now launched a best practice research guide called Building Bridges.

Two years ago housing associations signed up to a voluntary agreement that would enable their tenants to buy their properties through the right-to-buy, but the cost of replacing these homes would be funded by forcing councils to sell off their highest value housing stock.

LGC reported at the time how this angered many local authorities with some leaders branding the arrangement a “backroom deal”, while David Montague, chair of the g15 group which represents London’s largest housing associations, admitted he was “concerned” about the damage done to relationships with local authorities.

The policy is currently being piloted but communities secretary Sajid Javid said in a speech at the National Housing Federation annual conference last week the government would take a decision on whether to roll the policy out nationally “as soon as we possibly can”.

Speaking at the launch of the Building Bridges guide in London yesterday, CIH chief executive Terrie Alafat said relations had become “strained” as a result of the extended right-to-buy but added: “We are never going to deliver the housing the country needs unless we work better together… It’s also true government has its own work to do in terms of not undermining the crucial relationship [between councils and housing associations].

“The best government is the one that creates the enabling environment that allows us to get on and do our job.”

John Bibby, chief executive of the Association of Retained Council Housing, said: “The relationships between councils and housing associations are absolutely key to delivering new affordable housing and the regeneration of our estates.

“It’s absolutely key we continue to drive forward with that and avoid others splitting that relationship apart.”

Mark Perry, chief executive of housing association Vivid, said: “There’s a feeling among local authorities and housing associations that that relationship was damaged over the high value assets disposal [policy].

“But it’s really important we take a long-term view and… over a long period of time have demonstrated we can work together… Those relationships have ebbed and flowed, sometimes good and sometimes bad but we’ve always had a shared goal about how we want to move things forward.”

Recommendations contained in the report include getting councils and housing associations to develop a joint local housing affordability framework to identify the required mix of homes and agree targets, while the government should revisit welfare reforms and make building homes genuinely affordable to rent for those on low incomes a central policy.

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