One of the Tories' flagship ideological privatisation policies is on the verge of collapsing
Flickr/saulalbert

In proof of the inverted adage that now rings so true that it needs screaming into the ears of every free-market Tory: the ability to purchase social housing stock has meant that there will soon be no more housing stock left to sell off.

Since 2012, 60,000 social houses have been sold off under the Right to Buy scheme at below-market rate.

Two-thirds of councils in England don’t stand a chance of replacing the same number of homes that have been sold off under Right to Buy in five years’ time. Indeed, 12,000 properties were sold off last year, but by 2023, only 2,000 of them will be capable of being replaced.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for local authorities to be able to keep their receipts from social housing sales, which now have to be paid to central government.

In addition, and unsurprisingly, the LGA has also called for more central government funding to local authorities to enable them to build more social housing.

Right to Buy was Thatcher’s baby – the policy-summation of her ideology: that of no society, of private interests over public, of ownership and property over communitarianism. Now, its teeth are showing.

Now, we see what are society’s properties disappearing – and the state-backed safety net, which is there to ensure that no Briton suffers the barbarism of homelessness, evaporating.

Indeed, instead of serving communities, council properties sold under Right to Buy have come to serve the interests of the rentier class. 40% of the properties are in the hands of private landlords. 

Since 1980, two million council homes have been sold under Right to Buy. They’re sold on huge discounts of up to £108,000. Then, they’re snapped up by private landlords. That means that landlords are able to buy up properties at below market rate and rent them back to vulnerable and low-earners for above market rate. It’s profit on profit for the private wealthy.

The situation is so perverse that Right to Buy properties are even being let by local authorities to serve as temporary accommodation for homeless individuals. 23 councils have spent millions to lease back these properties from private landlords.

In essence, Right to Buy has allowed for public subsidisation of the private property market. This is at the same time when house building in the UK is at chronically low levels. 

Help to Buy is similarly failing to assist those in need. It was recently revealed that the Tories’ Help to Buy policy is increasingly only benefiting wealthy first-time buyers. The average salary of those utilising the scheme has risen to £50,000 – £72,000 in London. 

It is almost as if the private housing market exists not to house, but to profit, and it is therefore unable to solve our housing crisis. 

The news that the Right to Buy scheme is failing and does not have the longevity to continue, due to funding shortages and resource scarcity, goes to perfectly exemplify the barrenness of Tory ideology.

Subsidising both the private housing market and the private rental market will not solve this country’s housing shortage. All it has done is see the already privileged take advantage of the opportunities to the detriment of the poor, who then are left without recourse to assistance because the government has sold it all. 

What is needed is the hand of a strong state to intervene directly. This Tory government is unable and unwilling to do that – preferring instead to kowtow and render themselves in hock to wealthy private interests.

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