Ever since Margaret Thatcher declared her belief in a ‘property-owning democracy’ and introduced Right to Buy in 1980, the UK was converted into a country that saw houses as something to make money from, not just to live in, as illustrated by the buy-to-let boom of recent years that has fed the stereotype that Brits are obsessed with property.
But very few people predicted that four in 10 homes acquired under the Right to Buy programme would now be owned by private landlords.
Fresh data obtained by Inside Housing, under Freedom of Information Act, reveals that 40.2% sold by local authorities under the scheme are now being rented out privately, with private tenants now paying more than twice as much as when the homes were owned by local authorities.
Although the study did not identify the precise amount of rent paid by current tenants, the trade magazine stated that average council rent in England is £88 per week, compared with £210 charged by private landlords.
The research shows that Milton Keynes has private letting levels of 70.9%, while several other councils, including Bolsover, Brighton & Hove, Canterbury, Stevenage, Cheshire West & Chester, and Nuneaton & Bedworth, have private letting levels of over 50% among their former council-owned homes.
Reflecting on the research, John Healey, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for housing, said: “We desperately need more genuinely affordable homes, but the Conservatives’ right-to-buy means council homes are being sold off and communities are losing out.
“Only one in five homes recently sold under the right-to-buy has been replaced. As this research shows, too often these homes become buy-to-let investments with higher rents costing the taxpayer millions more in housing benefit.
“Labour will invest in the biggest council housebuilding programme in more than 30 years, and to ensure that areas can build and retain council homes for local people we will suspend the right-to-buy, allowing councils to reinstate it only if they can prove a plan to replace homes sold one-for-one and like-for-like.”
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman commented: “More than 77,500 tenants have used right to buy to purchase their home over the last five years, helping more people own a property.
“There are restrictions on selling on a property bought under Right to Buy within five years, and under our reinvigorated scheme every additional home sold off must be replaced by another one, nationally.
“Councils should deliver these additional affordable homes within three years, and so far they have achieved this.”