I know what you’re thinking; if the Right to Transfer (RTT) was legislated for in 2008, but five years later we still waiting for it to be enacted. Back in 2008 the grounds for empowering tenants through RTT were good and the need to compel intransigent councils was urgent, so what happened?
I confess, I am not privy to the inner workings of DCLG so I form my thesis based on the available facts but as noted attorney Lionel Hutz once said:
The revolving door at Eland House
One thing that certainly hasn’t helped is the continuing lack of continuity at ministerial level. Housing Minister seems to be considered a temporary posting at best; since 2008 we’ve had Yvette Cooper, Caroline Flint, Margaret Beckett, John Healey, Grant Shapps, Mark Prisk and currently (ersatz housing minister) Kris Hopkins.
With seven different politicians in charge over five years and across two governments it was always going to be hard to get anything done.
Housing Revenue Account Reform
The national Housing Revenue Account (HRA) system was predicted to move into surplus in 2008/9 (which it duly did) and this allowed for reform of the system of council housing finance to be proposed. However, this coincided with creation of the Right to Transfer and threw a major spanner in the works for tenants hoping to use their new right. This was because the uncertainties created essentially froze the stock transfer programme for new scheme . In the end it took until April 2012 for the new self financing regime to start.
Stock Transfer Programme closure
Even if you only want to transfer a few hundred homes and you don’t need any debt relief, you can’t do it if the Government’s stock transfer list is open for business. The list has been closed since HRA reform hove into view; to draw an analogy, it’s as if the football transfer window has been closed for the last 5 seasons.
There is pent up demand for transfers, not just from tenants but from stock owning councils wanting large scale voluntary transfer. Since the dust has settled on self financing, it is now possible to make clear comparisons between the stay-as-you-are and stock transfer business plans. This has opened the way for stock transfers to start again and DCLG has recently consulted on the new Housing Transfer Manual.
So what happens next?
Speculating about the launch of Right to Transfer is a bit like Waiting for Godot, howevef as RTT is now hitched to the stock transfer programme and it looks like we may be in business very soon. If for no other reason, the Government has made it clear that transfers requiring overhanging debt relief have to be completed by March 2015. This is a tight timeframe and if there are any further significant delays it seems unlikely that any transfers could happen in the current cycle.
Update 11 October, it appears that the ministerial reshuffle will cause yet more delay to the RTT regulations, but the word is only by a couple of weeks, so we’re looking at early November….
- Housing demoted, Kris Hopkins is new minister (24dash.com)
- Giving a backbencher the housing brief is unlikely to end the crisis (telegraph.co.uk)
- Reshuffle: Kris Hopkins appointed housing minister (theguardian.com)
- Poor leadership and no vision: verdict on Eric Pickles’s department from his own staff (express.co.uk)