There is a severe shortage of social housing - so is Right to Buy a good idea?

There is a chronic shortage of social homes. Credit: PA/ITV News

As Boris Johnson reportedly considers giving tenants the right to buy homes they rent from housing associations, Political Correspondent Dan Hewitt breaks down the potential ramifications - little more than a year since he first reported on the appalling conditions people in social housing were enduring

Any ‘new’ Right to Buy scheme that doesn’t replace the housing association properties sold seriously risks exacerbating an already dire situation.

There is a chronic shortage of social housing in England, which is having drastic consequences.

Right now, there are over 1 million families on social housing waiting lists in England. More than 96,000 families are in temporary accommodation (and rising every year).

This includes 121,680 children, whose ability to succeed in education and live healthy lives is seriously compromised.

'We're living in below humane conditions': Dan Hewitt reports on the housing crisis still gripping the country - one year after ITV News' first report into squalid housing

The chronic shortage of social homes – the most affordable to rent – has partly been caused by the first Right to Buy scheme, which sold off housing stock that was never replaced by successive governments. There are 1.5 million fewer social homes today than in 1980.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove has spent the last few months arguing for more social housing – partly to address the shocking stats above, but also to boost home ownership, which is falling.

His argument: low social rents mean tenants can save more to one day buy a home of their own.

But can the pace of building keep up with the policy of selling off existing stock?

Mr Gove has been looking at ways to boost social house building, scrapping requirements for builders to provide affordable homes and instead charge a levy that local authorities can use to build.

That, though, isn’t in place yet. Last year, fewer than 6,000 social homes were built in England (experts say 90,000 needed a year).

The current need for social housing is so desperate that any policy that sells more of them without immediately replacing them could be catastrophic.

This is to say nothing of the need to improve or replace the current social housing stock, which in some cases is no longer fit for purpose and is putting the health and safety of its tenants at risk, as I’ve been reporting for 12 months.

And all of this, of course, assumes the govt comes up with the hitherto tricky solutions of getting housing associations to actually do it – and the issue of how much it will cost.

It’s well documented that this idea, announced in 2015, didn’t work.