National Housing Federation objects that most privately built housing would not meet social housing standards

The National Housing Federation (NHF) has criticised the Liberal Democrat proposal that housing associations should buy up 150,000 unsaleable properties from private developers.

The scheme, proposed by LibDem Treasury spokesman Vince Cable, would raise a hundred-fold the number of homes bought by housing associations from developers.

The NHF, which represents 1,300 independent, not-for-profit housing associations across England, objects that many of these homes would not meet the higher environmental and space standards of social housing.

As well as creating the “slums of tomorrow” by flooding the market with substandard homes, this could put many associations out of business, it warns.

A similar scheme was run by the Conservative government in the early nineties, but at that time, says the NHF there was less difference than now in build quality between private developer and housing association homes.

Association homes now produce 25% less carbon emissions than their private-sector counterparts and are built to higher space standards to combat overcrowding.

The NHF has already said that the number of homes bought by housing associations from the private sector should be increased, but only if homes are of sufficient quality.

It wants housing associations to be allowed instead to use government grant and their own resources to buy up uncompleted developments and land that developers are unable to build on.

Ruth Davison, director of campaigns and neighbourhoods at the NHF, said: “Housing associations are already buying up unsaleable properties from private developers, and there is certainly scope for them to buy more. But it is hard to see how they would achieve the hundred-fold increase proposed by Vince Cable.

“It would flood the social housing sector with unsuitable homes, as private developers typically build to much lower standards than housing associations.

“Developers are having real difficulty selling the glut of shoebox flats which are currently on the market. They aren't spacious enough for the families that are on waiting lists for affordable housing - and if housing associations are compelled to buy them, they will become the slums of tomorrow.

“It is also difficult to see how Vince Cable's proposals would be funded, as 60% of the cost would have to come from associations themselves.”