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We must learn the lessons from right-to-buy: reinvestment is crucial

One third of ex-council house now owned by buy-to-let landlords

March 6, 2013

Freedom of Information requests by the Daily Mirror, have revealed that one third of council homes bought by tenants are now let out for profit. In one London borough over half of the former council-owned homes are now owned by landlords. In a poetic twist, Charles Gow, the son of the housing minister when Right-to-Buy was introduced under Margaret Thatcher, now owns at least 40 ex-council houses in an estate in south London.

There is nothing wrong in principal with the Right-to-Buy policy. Tenants should be given the opportunity to own their own home. Home ownership is proven to improve living standards, increase the sense of community, and even make people happier. Home ownership promotes prosperity and should be encouraged. However, social housing is a vital facet of the welfare state. Currently there are over 5 million people on housing waiting lists in the UK. Instead of living in comfortable, secure homes they are forced to stay in temporary accommodation which costs the taxpayer billions.

When Right-to-Buy was introduced councils were restricted from using the money raised to reinvest in more social housing. This is a key reason why today we there is a serious housing crisis in Britain. The current government is keen to re-establish Right-to-Buy which is no bad thing, but there must be a much greater effort to ensure that truly affordable social housing is created to ensure that the housing crisis isn’t exacerbated. State investment in social housing should not be viewed as a last resort. If council homes are sold to tenants they must be replaced for future generations.

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