THE heart wants what it wants, right?

An idiom used as mitigation for a million bad decisions and now, fittingly, used to justify new Conservative plans to extend right-to-buy in England.

Michael Gove, when trailing the scheme ahead of Boris Johnson's official announcement, described home ownership as "an important desire of the human heart".

Hearts were clearly on Tory minds when devising this latest wheeze. Mr Johnson, when asked, said he would be "setting out plans to kindle that dream of home ownership in the hearts of millions who currently believe it is beyond their means."

It might have served them better to focus on facts and practicalities.

In his announcement, Mr Johnson has said tenants would have the powers to buy properties from housing associations and will be able to use housing benefit to do this.

Clearly attempting to speed ahead of criticism, the prime minister said the extended scheme would not deplete the housing stock, as previously, because a new housing association property would be built "like for like" for every property sold.

It will certainly be interesting to see how that latter plan will be implemented and how housing associations will cope with it.

This new proposed policy is based on a pilot project launched in August 2018, the Voluntary Right to Buy (VRTB) Midlands pilot in the East and West Midlands. It saw large housing associations take part – those with more than 1000 properties – but none of the smaller housing associations invited agreed to be involved. No wonder.

During the pilot, the 44 housing associations sold, or had sales in the final stages of completion,1892 homes by April 2020.

The government's evaluation of the scheme said it was not possible to accurately assess how many like-for-like homes were being or proposed to be built but that "associations generally considered the three-year time limit on building replacements to be challenging."

Housing associations will have to find available land and funding for replacement homes, no mean feat, and, in the report, say they will also find it "challenging" to meet the commitment for building one-to-one replacement homes without using their own resources for funding.

Right-to-buy was introduced 42 years ago and, since then, nearly two million sales to tenants have been completed but, according to housing charity Shelter, fewer than five per cent of these homes have been replaced.

Given the feedback in the government's own report, it's going to take an astonishing amount of resource to reverse that trend to a like-for-like rebuild scheme.

The report also suggests that housing association tenants weren't that keen to buy - it suggested only 1.2% would.

Not least, this goes entirely against the spirit of housing associations, not-for-profit entities that have – or should have – a duty to the communities they serve. They are charities that exist to provide homes to people who are struggling, the old and young people.

Housing associations play a key role in resolving the housing crisis – supporting social landlords to build more social housing, not removing their stock.

The holes in the proposals are many. One of the oft - oft, oft, oft - raised issues with purchasing a home is that of deposits. It can be an enormous struggle for those without family support to save enough for a mortgage deposit.

Universal Credit is not available to anyone with savings of more than £16,000. If you've managed to save a deposit for a first home, you'd have to deplete those savings to qualify for benefits.

It's a Catch 22 the government hasn't offered any solution to. Nor has it said what the mortgage lenders think of the plan - have financial institutions agreed to take Universal Credit? Gove only knows, if that.

The Scottish Government was swift to squash any prospect of reviving right-to-buy in Scotland, which was phased out here in 2014. Shona Robison, calling it an "unsustainable policy", pointed to the half a million properties lost to the social rented sector in Scotland due to the scheme.

The pitfalls of right-to-buy are well known: many of these ended up in the hands of private landlords, exacerbating the housing crisis and forcing higher rents on tenants; those with their eye on the next rung of the ladder sold on their council houses for often eye watering profits and took affordable housing out of the reach of those who needed it most.

In his speech, Boris Johnson spoke of enhanced rights for renters but failed to offer anything meaningful. Rights for renters is at the heart – if you'll pardon me – of the issue.

Affordable capped rents, long term lease security and the building of plentiful housing stock are the bare basics needed to tackle the housing crisis, not a return to wrongly venerated policies of past administrations.

While the solutions are obvious and relatively simple, it feels that fixing the housing crisis is but a distant dream given the seeming reluctance of politicians to take forceful steps in resolving it.

This is partly due to the apathy of large swathes of voters addicted to house prices, watching them rise and feeling a sense of personal achievement in what is largely meaningless asset value increase.

While Messers Johnson and Gove talk about housing as a heart's desire, the reality is that people view property as an investment not a home, to a damaging degree.

When we talk about buying our first home, the questions are always about how the property values are doing in your chosen area. No one ever asks "Are you happy?"

This skewed view bleeds into the political attitude to the housing market and we end up with pie in the sky policies prioritising home ownership at almost any cost.

Given how flimsy this entire proposal seems, and the paucity of detail, it appears this is yet another rushed attempt to distract from recent scandal than anything serious or concrete.

Can Mr Johnson make this work where previous governments failed? Highly unlikely. He doesn't have the stomach nor certainly the heart.