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Thatcher’s Right To Buy damned as “a levelling down failure”

The programme of selling off council houses pioneered by Margaret Thatcher has been a strategic failure adding to inequality in Britain.

That’s the view of a new report from the Chartered Institute of Housing.

It says Right To Buy - which remains in place in England but has been scrapped in the rest of Britain - has led to many ex-council homes finding their way into the unregulated private rented sector (currently 40 per cent and likely to continue to rise), thus undermining the ambition to boost home ownership.


The CIH insists that the transfer of stock to the private market through Right to Buy sales puts at risk government ambitions for estate regeneration and to achieve “net zero”, with growing inequalities.

It says social rented homes benefit from investment in zero carbon and Decent Homes initiatives whilst private homes on the same estates fall further behind - though the Decent Homes Standard extended to the private rented sector should help address some of this imbalance.

The Review finds that the Right to Buy has had a ‘levelling down’ impact in smaller settlements and rural areas where council housing was critical in providing good quality, low-rent housing for lower-paid households with local work and family connections. 

Without a supply of council lettings many newly forming households, who cannot afford to buy, are unable to access housing locally or are limited to accommodation that fails to meet their needs.

Alan Murie, Emeritus Professor of urban and regional studies at the University of Birmingham - an author of the CIH report - says: “If there had been a sufficient attempt to sustain investment in social housing and to reinvest capital receipts in social rented homes, the impacts of right to buy could have been offset. 

“The problem has not been right to buy as such, but because right to buy has continued alongside other policy failures.”

James Prestwich, director of policy and external affairs at the Chartered Institute of Housing, adds: “This analysis shows that the Right to Buy is an ill-designed policy which undermines the availability of social housing stock for those who need it most and adds to pressure on the public purse. An urgent re-think is needed on its future.”

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  • John  Adams

    The experts have a short memory, many of these estates became no go areas because of poor management and lack of repairs by local councils and the tenants were desperate to leave at the first opportunity and for the lucky ones buying them and selling was the only way out. Even today you'll find plenty of social housing in terrible conditions with the Decent Homes standard being a joke when compared to the enforcement on private landlords the vast majority of whom are running it as a business and therefore maintain their assets unlike local authorities who are at the largesse of the tax payer spend their money on bicycle lanes no one wants and changing offensive street names.

  • John  Adams

    The long term solution is of course to build more social housing but as I have already said how much of it is mismanaged and turns into sink estates. Local authorities are useless at it, where as true Housing Associations such as Peabody run excellent housing dealing quickly with anti social behaviour and repairs, this is the best way forward.

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    Council tenants with zero financial sense bought with a discount on a mortgage, then the double glazing salesmen came knocking selling windows, doors and conservatories , just add it onto your mortgage, the BMWs appeared in the drive ways also financed by adding the cost onto the mortgage, the crash came in 1990 and oh dear negative equity, we cannot pay the mortgage and cannot sell, those mugs made the rest of us wealthy.

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    I work with a few housing associations in my day job, and it is very telling when i spoke with them about this a few months ago how it has gone, they told me straight up that the only local authority properties that are still available are those on estates that '' no one wants to live in'', so all the houses in the areas that are considered desirable have been sold off long ago, a lot have been Let and the owners moved onto other '' non council '' areas, the great levelling up !!!! So what they have left are all the poorest properties in the worst areas, how very sad for all the social tenants who wish to move, their only choice of property/area is very bad...... or very bad ! They resemble fish in a dwindling pool of water in the desert, flapping about with no-where to go. Those of us who can see the effects of this policy have known for decades that it's a total failure, why England still has it running is a real mystery to me, even when Labour were in power they kept it..... Power to the people :)

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    Maybe these need to be bought back

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    Several of big Developers currently building big Developments had to have a percentage of Affordable housing as part of the Planning Permission. However I definitely know of 3 such Developments locally where on completion the Developers bought back the Affordable Flats by paying the Council’s a fee, hence kept control of whole Development on going , end result no Affordable homes and Developers made a killing, I wouldn’t be in a good position to know this but I do so it’s probably wide spread.

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    Thatcher's policy was based on the fact that mortgage companies would evict strikers in arrears but Councils wouldn't evict strikers for rent arrears.

    Nothing to do with levelling up or down.

    John  Adams

    No one put a gun to any tenants head to buy their property and people were offered significant discounts at a time when most Council properties were at a very low value. So how you conflate this into anti Thatcher rhetoric makes no sense whatsoever.


    I regard Thatcher's policy in a positive light as she did break the power of the unions and anything that did that is something to be praised.

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    Right 2 buy make a mockery of people buying with Mortgage’s at Market price off their own backs. I seen one guy buy the House for £11k because he had sponged so long, another one bought for £22k a modern 3 storey Tower House which I later bought from them for £207k in 2004, I didn’t know until afterwards when I got the paper work from Solicotor.
    The only restriction on them was not to sell it for 5 years. The guy that bought for £11k also sold fe big money then moved in with his brother in another Council House.

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    Michael Foley - it’s a big scam, they have all been at it, and we the tax payers just keep getting sheared.


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