Fascinating isn’t it, that after all these years – and the loss of nearly 1.5million social housing units* – so many people across the political spectrum seem to be so strongly in favour of ‘right to buy’. Yet we only have to look to Europe to notice that the most economically successful country (Germany) has one of the lowest home ownership rates, while the two countries with the highest are Ireland and Italy (Nationmaster)
So what are the reasons people support Right to Buy? (apart from the cynical suggestion of gerrymandering, that is)
A couple of days ago I was arguing hard with people of many political affiliations about David Cameron’s proposed boost to Right to Buy. And more and more clearly it seemed that the arguments I heard were at the best, misguided, at the worst self-serving.
The bottom line is that people seem to confuse the right to having a good reliable roof over your head (a basic human right) with the ‘right’ to get onto the property ladder.
First and foremost I don’t see why anyone should feel they have the right to buy anything and that the state should therefore fund them -particularly at the expense of the living conditions of those with less money. Nor can I work out why people assert the superiority of home ownership with all its responsibilities over the comparative liberty of rental. My grandmother rented her house in Sheffield for something like 70 years and gloried in the fact that anything that went wrong was the landlord’s problem.
So here are some of the arguments I encountered, with responses:
“Right to buy can help poorer people onto the property ladder. “ Why should anyone feel they have a ‘right’ to be on the property ladder? If they choose to buy a house rather than rent one , why should the state subsidise them?
“Right to buy means that tenants and owners live side by side – stopping people being prejudiced against people due to where they live. “ Yet only last week I heard someone who had bought ex-council stock complaining bitterly about having to live next door to ’social housing tenants’!
“Right to buy creates a classless society by a method that works (unlike wealth redistribution by taxation)” Classless? surely it’s a way of the state funding another gap between haves and have nots
“A huge amount of temporary social housing is already in the private sector, hired by council from private landlords, many of whom are greedy.” I cannot see how even the most pro- Right to buyer can mention this – surely Right to buy will put even MORE vulnerable people into their hands!
“Right to buy gives people more aspiration to work and be in a position to buy… as opposed to renting on benefits forever” This is plainly ridiculous. In these stringent economic times, aspiration will get you ahead and should not require supporting.
“Right to buyPeople in social housing who can afford to buy are mid-earners, so can’t buy unless the purchase price is discounted.” So why should the state fund them? It doesn’t fund the car or the television that I can’t actually afford.
“Some social tenants can afford to buy but enjoy the luxury of social housing. Instead of opposing Right to buy one should be looking at people in social housing who can afford to buy and getting them out.” If you perceive some tenants as ‘bedblockers’ its an act of madness to lose even more housing from the food chain. And how does this argument sit with the previous argument (postulated by the same person)?
“If councils replace the homes that they sell off under Right to buy– it means more social housing will become available faster.” How long will it take them to replace it? And it will not necessarily be built in the same area where they were sold from. In rural areas this means the poor live further and further from centres where there is work and yet rural transport has got worse and worse and more and more expensive. This is furher ghettoising social housing
“Each Right to buy sale will fund the building a new affordable unit. This would be the next best option to removing well-off social tenants.” No, the very best option is not to sell off your social homes AND build enough to replace the millions lost under the last Conservative and Labour governments for the benefit of the future.
Thw bottom line is Right to buy sales have in the past and will in many areas inflate the cost of local housing – and force the less well-off, the young, those dedicated to public service out of areas like the one I represent! Affordable housing is already problematic in this district.
Woodbridge – if you want the luxury of having retained firemen, home helps, carers, teaching assistants, paramedics, and all those wonderful people we value – but not enough to pay them what it costs to live in Woodbridge – oppose the resumption of Right to Buy, or everyone will lose..
*1 million uk social housing units were lost between 1979 and 1997,under the Conservatives and a further 420,000 social housing units were lost between 1997 and 2010, under Labour.