Every now and again I feel the need to stick my head above the parapet on an issue of the day, I think the time has come to do that on the vexed issue of right to buy.
I’m against it.
I agree that it is very nice for council (and maybe now housing association) tenants to be able to own their property and have a stake in where they live, but why should they be singled out for this benefit?
They already have benefits many tenants private rented sector can only dream of – long-term security of tenure and a lower rent.
Here are what I see as the negative aspects of right to buy:
Once a property leaves the social sector it is usually gone for good. Articles I have read in the past indicate that properties are being replaced more on a 1:11 basis rather than 1:1.
This reduction in social housing makes it very difficult for Councils to perform their statutory housing obligations towards those in priority need. Forcing them to use expensive bed and breakfast and private sector housing – which costs are inevitably passed on to us in the end.
For example, an article in the Guardian indicates that Councils are making cash payments of up to £4,000 to landlords to persuade them to take on council tenants.
A very large percentage of right to buy properties end up in the hands of landlords – who then rent the properties back out to the type of people who would have occupied it were it still social housing, but at a higher rent (usually paid by housing benefit – i.e. us).
If right to buy is extended to the housing associations, then this will destabilise their business as they will be forced to sell off their assets at an undervalue
It has even been suggested that it could be vulnerable to human rights challenges (see Inside Housing here)
Why do the government want to proceed with Right to Buy?
The only reason that I can think of is this. We are an aging population particularly in view of the increase in average life span. How will the economy pay for our old age care?
Well, if we own our own house, the cost of care can be taken from that.
Indeed I understand (I could be wrong) that the basic model that is used to predict the future economy is that of people moving inevitably towards owning their own house which can then be used to pay for their care in old age.
The increase in the private rented sector and reduction in people owning their own homes is throwing this into disarray and so the introduction of right to buy is an attempt to swing things the other way.
Although I can see the argument behind this, I do not agree with it. It is inherently unfair on people who have saved to buy their own home and who will want to pass it on to their children.
There is also the point that where people pay for the cost of care from their homes they are actually paying twice, as they will already have paid National Insurance for most of their lives, which was supposed to be for this.
The phrase ‘double indemnity’ comes to mind. Is this fair?
I suggest that a major re-think is needed. But are short-termism politicians capable of this?