Tuesday 14 April 2015 11:14 am

Conservative manifesto clash? Boris Johnson said right-to-buy extension could be "extremely costly"

Boris Johnson previously expressed serious doubts about the merits of one of the flagship policies in the Conservative manifesto.

David Cameron said today a future Conservative government would extend Margaret Thatcher's famous right-to-buy scheme. The policy would allow housing association tenants to buy their homes at a massive discount.

But Boris Johnson, London's Mayor and the favourite to succeed David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party, said extending the scheme "would involve massive subsidies". Speaking at Mayor's question time Johnson told the London Assembly:

If I may say so, obviously one of the issues with extending the right-to-buy to housing associations in the way that I think you are thinking of is that it would be potentially extremely costly to this body. We would have to make up the difference.

The Conservatives claim the policy is fully costed, and houses sold will be replaced with new properties. Local authorities will be forced to sell their most expensive vacated properties. Around 1.3m housing association tenants would be eligible for the right-to-buy extension.

The Lib Dems wasted no time in pointing out Boris's scepticism of the Tories' latest election promise. 

"Boris Johnson has confirmed what we already expected – the Tories’ ‘right-to-buy’ announcement is yet another unfunded spending commitment from a party whose economic credibility is disappearing by the day," said Lib Dem spokesman Lord Scriven. Several property service firms have already spoken out against the extension, with JLL's Adam Challis labelling the move a "terrible policy."

"We fully support the aspiration of home ownership but extending right-to-buy to housing associations is the wrong solution to our housing crisis,” said Ruth Davison of the National Housing Federation. But with access to housing rising up the political agenda the prospect of owning one's own home could shift enough swing voters to give the Tories an edge.