Right To Buy. We’ve done that one, haven’t we? Mrs Thatcher making instant coffee in some poor council tenant’s home in the 1980s?
That was the first chapter, yes, giving council tenants the right to buy their own homes. In 2012 it was relaunched with greater discounts going from £16,000 to £103,900 in London. It was the main plank of Mrs Thatcher’s “privatisation” success and 2.5million council tenants across the UK have bought their homes in the past 35 years.
So it’s back. Same thing again only with lattes?
No, this is different. Similar but different. As introduced in the Queen’s Speech, a proposed and not uncontroversial Housing Bill extends Right To Buy to England’s 1.3million housing association tenants.
They weren’t included in the scheme?
No and it could be divisive. Tenants living in the same housing, often in the same road under the same sort of “social contract” but one group were allowed to buy and those living in “arm’s-length” operations were not. The Housing Bill will create a “level playing field” says the legislation’s champions.
Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
Not exactly. The critics of the scheme have pointed out that putting more housing into private hands does nothing to increase the social housing stock. The current housing crisis, say critics, is a direct legacy of the Thatcher policy. And, because of substantial public subsidies, money that could be spent helping the homeless is actually being used to subsidise those with a roof over their heads.
Subsidies, you say? Gimme figures.
For those eligible, discounts start at 35% on a house and 50% on a flat. The maximum is 70%, but that is currently capped at £103,900 in the capital. For example, someone who has been a public sector tenant for 10 years could buy a £100,000 flat for just £40,000 using a 60% discount.
What does it all add up to?
The National Housing Federation (NHF) which represents all the UK’s housing associations, has said it might cost £11.2billion, if everyone eligible acted. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said it would potentially cost “billions of pounds” over the next parliament.
Will throwing money at the problem solve it? Usually does for me.
The housing associations will use this money from their stock sell-off to build replacement homes. The Government is pushing for “one for one” levels. It argues that the policy could help reduce social housing waiting lists as rather than there being just one rented property there will be two properties – one with a new home owner and one new one available for those in need on the waiting list. Meanwhile councils will be forced to sell their most valuable houses when they become vacant raising, apparently £4.5billion.
So it’s a practice v principle thing?
Exactly. And it’s not helped by an implicit facet of the scheme – the state interfering with independent companies.
Is that what Ed Miliband was canned for?
But it’ll be alright in the end, won’t it? I do so hate bother.
The National Housing Federation points out that since 2012, only 46% of homes sold off have been replaced by new ones because councils can’t find land to build on. Henry Gregg, assistant director at the NHF, said: “At a time when we need to be increasing the overall amount of social housing, it is like trying to fill a bathtub with the plug taken out.”
What are other people saying?
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Housing associations fund new homes by borrowing against their existing stock, but if the Government forces them to sell homes at a discount then it will cost more to borrow and they will be able to build less.”
Your Move director Adrian Gill said there would be a time lag before the new houses come online and “tenant demand for housing will be accumulating, and this could spill over into the private rented sector, and artificially push up prices and competition for rental homes.”
Mayor of London Boris Johnson said a scheme that didn’t increase the housing stock would be the “height of insanity”.
And finally: “Legislation will be introduced to support home ownership and give housing association tenants the chance to own their own home.”
Who said that last one?
Oo-eer. Best be moving on. Quickly, what else is new?
New Help to Buy Isa accounts will be made available through banks and building societies to assist first-time buyers amass a deposit.
Some 285,000 might take advantage of the scheme in which the Government gives a £50 bonus for every £200 people save.
Also, there’s a “right to build” in the Housing Bill promising people the right to be allocated land with planning permission for them to self-build or commission a builder to construct a home.