Election 2015

Reality Check: How many could use new Right to Buy?

Houses in Bristol Image copyright Getty Images

The Conservatives have said they would extend the Right to Buy for "up to 1.3 million tenants of housing associations".

The party's press release says there are around 800,000 housing association tenants who only have a limited "Right to Acquire" social housing. The Conservatives also say that around 500,000 housing association tenants currently don't have the right to buy their homes.

As the new policy would affect both of those groups, the Conservatives say that 1.3m people could benefit. But is this correct?

The first thing to note is that the housing landscape has changed considerably in recent decades. The government's English Housing Survey (EHS) said there were 3.9 million households in the social rented sector in England in 2013-14. At 17%, that was the smallest type of tenure and follows a long downward trend since the 1980s. That suggests that the proportion of potential beneficiaries from the Right To Buy extension is dwindling.

Of those who might qualify under the Conservative plan, not all will be in a position to buy their own home. The EHS said that 8.6% of people in the social rented sector were unemployed. That compares with 3% overall in England or 5.4% among private renters. In terms of economic activity, the survey said that only 23.9% of people in the socially-rented sector were in full-time employment, compared with 62.1% of private renters. The survey also said that just 25.2% of people in the socially rented sector expected to buy a property, compared with 61.1% of private renters.

The Conservatives could argue that this figure might change following today's announcement. And they might also take some comfort from the EHS survey, which showed that 73.8% of people in the social rented sector have been in the property more than three years and so would meet the eligibility criteria in terms of length of stay in the property. But given the relatively high unemployment rate, and relatively low rate of people in full-time work, it is perhaps less likely that all of the people who are potentially eligible will find themselves in a position to buy their home.

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