4 reasons Right to Buy is a terrible idea

Michelle McGagh
General Election 2015 campaign - April 17th
General Election 2015 campaign - April 17th

David Cameron must be really worried about 7 May if he's been desperate enough to use his Tory 'break glass in case of emergency' plan and extend right to buy.

The Thatcher flagship policy of letting social housing tenants buy their homes at a discount was seen as revolutionary when it was announced in 1980 but over 30 years later we now see what a disaster it was.

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There are four main reasons why we shouldn't give an even bigger discount to Right to Buy tenants:

1. Britain's social housing stock has depleted so drastically that we now have 1.9 million families waiting to be housed by the state, surely the last thing we need to do is sell more of those properties.

2. Cameron is arguing home ownership equals security, but people living in social housing are the most secure tenants in the country paying cheap rents without fear of being thrown out by greedy landlords who want to hike the rent.

3. The right to buy scheme did benefit families who bought their homes but it also benefitted property speculators who snapped up ex-local authority housing and rented it out to private tenants at far higher prices than the council did. In 2013, the GMB union calculated that a third of ex-council properties were in the hands of private landlords.

4. This is yet another way for the Conservatives to subsidise homeownership that will in turn keep property prices high, keeping more people off the property ladder. Why is it fair that those who are renting privately and paying taxes to subsidise right to buy are then penalised by the same scheme which will bump up property prices when the ex-council properties are sold on?

Can Cameron not see he is looking back at this Thatcherite policy through rose-tinted, or should that be cobalt-tinted, lenses. History has warned us that selling off social housing benefits the wealthy few to the detriment of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

This government needs to stop relying on the false belief that property values only go one way. There is a tipping point when properties become too expensive for normal people, we have already seen this phenomenon creep out of central London into outer zones.

Politicians need to stop subsidising home ownership because they are making the situation worse and right to buy is short-term gain for long-term housing pain at its starkest.

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