Fans of the Right to Transfer may have wondered where I’ve been these last many months, well the truth is that there hasn’t been much I could say. The Right to Transfer (RTT) process at Bushbury Hill EMB has been in a holding pattern, hopefully I’ll have some more interesting news in the near future.
In the meantime there has been one useful clarification over the Right to Transfer process which I can give an update on. The Department for Communities and Local Government have made it clear that any RTT application must fully cover the cost of not only the HRA debt attributable to the stock to be transferred, but the cost of any redemption premia if that debt is repaid early.
Under HRA self financing all stock owning authorities in England have HRA debt. For a partial stock transfer such as an RTT proposal, the a portion of this debt is attributed to the homes being transferred – this should be a fair proportion based on the condition, type and rents of the stock. The purchase price paid by the landlord buying the stock has to be enough to cover repayment of this attributable debt.
Debt Repayment Premia
However, if the local authority intends to use the transfer proceeds to pay off the attributable debt then it will incur debt repayment premia – they have to pay for the loss of interest that would have been due if the debt was not repaid early. For a tenant group to have a business plan approved by the HCA it will have to demonstrate that the price paid to the local authority will be enough to cover the attributable debt plus any premia. There is no Government funding available to assist with any shortfall.
Money down the drain – why pay interest twice on the same capital?
It is safe to say that stock owning councils have HRA business plans which involve borrowing money in order to invest in their homes or build new ones. You may be wondering why any local authority would therefore want to send any capital receipt from transfer and send it to the Treasury instead of putting it to good use in their community. Doing this means that they end up paying two lots of interest on the same amount of capital – the debt repayment premia on the attributable debt and then interest on new borrowing for the same amount to support their HRA business plan. It creates an unnecessary transfer of money from the local authority to the Treasury . This money is no longer available to invest by the council, which is effectively pouring its tenants’ money down the drain.
Can’t you think of anything better to do with the money?
The real reason for a local authority to say that it wants to repay the attributable debt is to drive up the cost of the transfer in an attempt to stop tenants exercising their statutory Right to Transfer. However in light of the housing crisis, building some new homes would be a better use for the money.
Clarity is a good thing
It would be better if DCLG required local authorities seeking to repay attributable debt to demonstrate they had no borrowing in their HRA business plan and therefore no use for the capital receipt. On the plus side, at least tenants now have a clear position form which to work, in order to make an RTT proposal fly they will have to ensure that they can come up with a business plan which will cover the attributable debt and debt repayment premia. It is the fate of Bushbury Hill EMB as the pioneer of the Right to Transfer to iron out all the wrinkles in the process and hopefully make things clearer, if not easier, for other tenant groups in future.