The onward march of the Tory’s privatisation plans could be about to ensnare housing associations in England and should be fought ‘tooth-and-claw’, Unite, the country’s largest union.
The right-wing Policy Exchange think tank has said that nationalisation of housing associations followed by a state sell-off into the private sector could become ‘a serious option’, if the Office for National Statistics (ONS) decides to reclassify housing associations as public bodies.
In the past a key argument for developing social housing through housing associations has been that, as independent bodies, their £60 billion debt would not count as public borrowing.
The think tank said privatising housing associations would be ‘the most obvious’ government reaction to £60bn of debt being added to the national balance sheet.
Unite national officer for the not for profit sector Sally Kosky said:
“We call on the minister for housing and planning, Brandon Lewis to repudiate the think tank’s ‘blue sky’ thinking.
“If this is allowed to go-ahead then what will happen is in the space of less than 40 years the council house stock assiduously built up since the First World War will end up in the hands of ‘fat cat’ property developers, having passed through the ‘housing association’ stage.
“At a time when the need for housing has edged to the top of the political agenda, it would be a national scandal which Unite would fight ‘tooth-and-claw’.
“Unite has thousands of members in the housing sector and will want to be at the centre of a campaign to stop any plan to privatise the biggest providers of social housing in the country.
“Unite believes that a housing bill is due to come before MPs by the end of the year and if the privatisation of housing associations is included, there will be a political battle royal.”
Housing associations provide about two and a half million homes for more than five million people across England.