In the next few days we’ll be reading about Right To Buy, the policy allowing council tenants to buy their flats or houses, with a discount. It was introduced by the Thatcher government in October 1980 so its 30th anniversary will spur a lot of press comment.
The policy has fallen in popularity recently because most of the best council homes have long been sold off and, of course, because of the recent mortgage famine. Only 4,600 were sold in the financial year 2009/10, so there will be few changes to the overall figures below, compiled last year by the HSBC bank:
• Since 1980 councils have sold off 50% of their five million flats and houses;
• The sell-off bought in over £85 billion, most of which went to central government because of restrictions on council use of capital receipts;
• Owner-occupation in Britain was 57% in 1980 and is about 68% today - most of that rise is thanks to Right To Buy;
• In 1980 one third of all British households were in council flats and houses – now it is 12% with an additional 7% in other forms of social housing;
• In 1980 the average price of a council property bought by a tenant was just £15,528.
Here is the regional breakdown:
All Britain: 2.35m sold at average discount of 49%
Scotland: 440,000 sold at 55% discount
North west England: 212,000 at 45% discount
North east England: 156,000 at 44% discount
Yorkshire: 204,500 at 44% discount
West Midlands: 215,500 at 45% discount
East Midlands: 163,000 at 45% discount
Wales: 136,000 at 46% discount
Eastern England: 185,000 at 46% discount
London: 290,000 at 45% discount
South east: 204,000 at 47% discount
South west: 139,000 at 48% discount
Thatcher's policies were nothing if not divisive, so inevitably there are different views over Right To Buy.
A study by Maarten van Ham of the Centre for Housing Research at the University of St Andrews shows that RTB owners rarely move and, because their neighbourhoods are no longer council-owned and managed, they may suffer worse social problems than before.
"The right to buy has given many households access to home ownership but not to better places. The buyers were social renters to begin with, and for a reason. They have less money than most people, find it harder to get a mortgage and now cannot attract buyers for ex-council homes which are unpopular," van Ham says.
"The buyers are now trapped. They have too little money to improve their properties and are unhappy where they live. In a downturn this sector – the poorest – is hit badly. Many struggle to even keep their homes from repossession," he adds.
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