Voluntary Right to Buy pilots

Since the Voluntary Right to Buy (VRTB) agreement was reached in 2015, the government has set up two pilot schemes to help test how it will work in practice, and ensure a smooth experience for tenants.

Eligible tenants living in the pilot regions have been able to go through the process of buying their own home, with a discount paid for by the government. An initial pilot was carried out in 2016, and a second pilot launched in the Midlands in summer 2018.

The Midlands pilot (2018)

This was launched in August 2018, following the government’s announcement in the 2016 Autumn Statement of £200m funding for a new regional pilot.

The pilot lasted for two years and tested two critical pillars of the original agreement:

  • Portability. Tenants who are eligible to buy under the scheme, but who live in a home that is exempt from the scheme, will be able to transfer their discount to a different house.

  • One-for-one replacement. A way of guaranteeing that there will be no overall loss of affordable housing, by ensuring that for every home sold another affordable home is built.

The Midlands pilot also tested the application of the VRTB guidance, which is the policy that details how the scheme will operate. This policy has been jointly designed by housing associations, the NHF and the government.

Our member briefing provides a useful summary of this guidance.

The Midlands was chosen by the government because it has a good mixture of different communities, types of homes and operating markets, making it a good testing area for the above aspects.

VRTB Midlands pilot – guidance for housing associations

An evaluation of the pilot was conducted by RSM Economic Consulting in 2020. The results of this evaluation were published in February 2021.

Voluntary Right to Buy Midlands pilot: guidance on one for one
replacement (produced by MHCLG in March 2021 for National Housing Federation members).

The original pilot (2016)

Prior to the Midlands pilot, five housing associations were invited by the government to take part in a pilot scheme in January 2016. These housing associations were:

  • L&Q
  • Riverside
  • Saffron
  • Sovereign
  • Thames Valley Housing

In collaboration with the pilot associations, we commissioned the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research to conduct research into lessons learned from the pilots.

These learnings have been shared through a series of blogs, and a detailed research report.