I was brought up in a council house in the West Midlands. Social housing is one of the cornerstones of a equitable and democratic society. Unfortunately the Tories brought in the “Right to Buy” in 1980. I do remember the pomp and media circus when Thatcher handed over the keys to various people buying their respective council houses. The symbolism of these purchases once bought was the front door being replaced to highlight the difference to all the other council houses in the street. Within that 10 years nationally 1 million council houses were sold.
In Bristol, between 2004 and 2011, the number of council houses bought under the “Right to Buy” scheme was 471. Apparently, as well, in Mayor Ferguson’s Capital Programme a total of £26m will be spent developing 34 new council homes by March 2015 and 70 per year thereafter, aiming to provide 1,000 more by 2029, the first major council housing programme in the city for a generation. Just over £125m will be invested to maintain and improve the council’s existing stock of 28,000 homes. This is nowhere near enough. It needs a massive injection of public funds (as opposed to arenas). People need affordable (I know what I mean by affordable) social housing.
For years the Right to Buy was slowly strangled, with a miserly cap on discounts killing the prospect of home ownership for most social tenants.
We don’t think governments should be in the business of vetoing aspiration. That’s why we reinvigorated the Right to Buy. It’s all part of our long-term economic plan to make Britain a country on the rise, where hard working people can be rewarded with the security and peace of mind that comes from owning their own home.
Eighteen months later and with over 13,400 hard-working tenants taking up the offer, it’s clear the public shares our view. But we want to go further, that’s why we will soon be increasing the maximum percentage discount for houses, and ensuring that the cash cap rises with inflation, so more social tenants can make Right to Buy their New Year’s resolution for 2014.
We’ll also continue to plough the cash from additional sales back into delivering new affordable homes for rent, which will help drive up the rate of housebuilding across the country.
What is meant by “affordable homes” for rent? It is such an elastic term it could mean, well anything. What is affordable to one person may be out of their price range to another. A third of all ex-council housing is owned by wealthy landlords capitalising on “Right to Buy”… though the government claims they want to “help” hard-working, aspiring homeowners.
In the year to April 2013, 8,398 council and housing association tenants took up their Right to Buy – more than double the sales seen in the previous year and the highest level since 2007.
These, on top of the 2,149 Right to Buy sales seen in the first quarter of this year, take the total sales to date to over 10,000.
This also takes the total numbers of households supported into home ownership through government-backed schemes to nearly 40,000 – further proof that wherever people are in the market, there is help on hand for aspiring homeowners.
Despite promises, these homes are not being replaced like for like. Government continue to take a cut from any receipts, and new homes, which can be elsewhere, are likely to have fixed term tenancies and up to 80% market rents, which makes them unaffordable in many areas.
Every penny belonging to council housing must be ring fenced, and council homes must be retained if they can not be replaced like for like. This robbery must be stopped.
It is robbery, it is theft on a grand scale where social housing is being continually starved of funds. There’s already a lack of council houses yet there are cases of larger houses being bought and obviously the buyer not being stung by the brutal and vicious bedroom tax. And of course, lets not forget if council housing is built on valuable land which can be sold off for profit to big business.
See as well this article from Red Pepper