Valuable lessons learned from the Voluntary Right to Buy (VRTB) pilot for housing associations have been published this week.
A research report, commissioned by the National Housing Federation and the five participating housing associations, was conducted by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University during 2016.
The findings have provided key learning points for the sector, the next piloting phase and for the national scheme when it is introduced.
The report found that the pilot has been an effective way of testing the scheme, the applications process and how any hurdles can be overcome. It also described how the pilot has helped to anticipate and manage levels of demand in different regional housing markets.
The report found:
- There was a strong interest in the scheme amongst tenants who lived in eligible homes and who met the 10-year tenancy criteria.
- The majority of tenants said the application procedure was relatively straightforward.
- There was a regional variance in levels of tenant demand and property valuations, reflecting the different local markets in which the pilot was operating. Affordability was a key issue in moderating demand.
- A need for transparent and regular communication with tenants, participating or otherwise, to manage expectations and guide people through the process.
- In treating the discount as a deposit, lenders were prepared to offer mortgages at relatively high multiples of household incomes, raising concerns of financial risk for some applicants.
Hugh Owen, Director of Strategy and Public Affairs at participating housing association Riverside, said: “We commissioned this research report to ensure that the Voluntary Right to Buy pilot provided key learning points for housing associations across the country.
“The findings have proved incredibly valuable and have demonstrated the ways in which our sector can work together to share learning. Together, the five participating housing associations overcame hurdles associated with setting up a pilot programme within tight timescales, communicating with residents and the impact of working in differing regions.
“We are confident that the success of the pilot and the outcomes of the research have given a clearer picture of what the Voluntary Right to Buy scheme might look like, helping housing associations to provide an opportunity for homeownership where it otherwise might not exist.”
Professor Ian Cole from Sheffield Hallam University added "The pilot programme was a valuable testing ground for the VRTB, bolstered by the five pilot housing associations’ strong commitment to mutual learning.
"The research has highlighted the differential impact of the programme depending on local housing market conditions and we cannot emphasise enough that the impact of VRTB will vary significantly from one locality to another.
"The popularity of the scheme is testimony to the rewards on offer to those who qualify but the research also highlights the scale of the financial commitment that will be required for tenants in order to achieve this."
Sheffield Hallam’s research report into the Voluntary Right to Buy pilot was commissioned to capture successes and hurdles in real time while the programme took place.
It draws on both qualitative and quantitative information from over 650 residents living in regions covered by the five pilot housing associations.
The full report is published here.