Is it time for a rethink on Right to Buy?

The Right to Buy scheme celebrated its 25th anniversary last week. First introduced in 1980, Right to Buy is aimed at secure tenants of local authorities and those assured tenants of registered social landlords or housing associations who previously held secure tenancies with local authorities.

But a report last week from housing charity Shelter warned social housing was in crisis. Shelter says if the impact of overcrowding is the same across all types of housing, 268,000 children in England could be sharing bedrooms with their parents, and 72,000 teenagers of opposite sexes could also be sharing.

So, Mortgage Strategy asks: With social housing availability at critical levels, is it time for a rethink on Right to Buy?
John Prescott, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister – The government is committed to Right to Buy. But it was concerned about the scheme’s impact on the availability of affordable housing in some areas and about exploitation of the rules. So it has modernised the scheme to close loopholes. In March 2003, it lowered from 38,000 to 16,000 the maximum discount available to tenants in 41 areas. Right to Buy can also be suspended in certain areas to preserve local housing, such as in National Parks.

David Copland, Pink Home Loans – I am not sure a rethink on Right to Buy schemes is the issue. The problem is one of affordable housing stock, with many larger properties being lived in by smaller families and conversely larger families residing in smaller properties.

Paul Hunt, Platform – In the past few years, councils have gradually decreased the discounts available to tenants wishing to buy their council houses and so the attractiveness of the scheme has slowly diminished. But the damage has already been done, as successive governments have failed to replace the housing stock exiting the public sector via the Right to Buy initiative. If a rethink is needed it should be to review the overall social housing policy to ensure more family-sized homes are available.

Simon Biddle, Infinity Mortgages – The success of the scheme can’t be brought into question. Right to Buy has made home ownership a reality rather than a dream for millions. Lenders have played a significant part in the success story with their offer of competitive and flexible products that assist buyers.

Patrick South, Shelter – More than 1.7 million council houses have been sold through Right to Buy, yet just 700,000 new social rented homes have been built to replace them. The government must make reforms in the short term by restricting discounts further and in the longer term by replacing the Right to Buy.