“But right to buy will resolve George Osborne’s “ambiguity” and cement the public sector status of housing associations once and for all. If “private” assets can be forcibly sold by law, then they are no longer private assets and I am sure the ONS will have no hesitation in placing housing association debt upon the public sector balance sheet. George Osborne seemed fairly relaxed about this, even though he did not know how much was involved.
“Recent events show where this is heading. The recent Policy Exchange report on ‘Free Housing Associations’ set the terms of the debate. SHOUT debated with its author, Christopher Walker, at the Manchester conference and we have written several articles challenging his case. His key idea is that grant could be turned into debt and associations then set free from “burdensome” regulation to build many more homes. Once debt is on the public balance sheet grant can also be turned into debt as a quid pro quo (the two are almost equal). The next step is to sell the debt book. Simple.
“The word is that Goldman Sachs has now been appointed to consider how this nationalisation/privatisation of housing association assets could be implemented. If you want a vision of the future it is worth looking at what happened in Madrid when Goldman Sachs took over 5,000 homes owned by the regional government. Just google it.”