Monday, 21 September 2015

Right to buy? Wrong to sell.

 A BBC report yesterday highlighted that Councils were failing to replace council houses lost from public ownership under the Right to Buy. As is becoming typical of certain sections of the BBC News, it was a report that lacked explanation or analysis. It seemed to lay the blame squarely with Local Authorities with no recognition that lack of resources from central Government or even the lead in times required to build new housing to replace it with were very significant factors. The big concern at present is the Government manifesto commitment to extend the Right to Buy to Housing Association properties will further diminish the stock of affordable rented accommodation. I am aware of a number of sensible Conservatives who think this policy is nonsense as well.

One of the principal problems is the Government commitment that houses lost through the Right to Buy will be replaced with an 'affordable' home. So for a start an 'affordable' home is not a council house. It could be a house provided by a Housing Association where the rents are usually higher  than Council properties or it could be a starter home or a house which is just a little cheaper to buy than the average price in that area. So it may be an 'affordable' home for a few but certainly not for everyone and definitely not for people on the lowest of incomes. What we need if housing is to be replaced is at the very least a'like for like' replacement. A council house for a council house. 

My view would be that the huge discounts given to householders to purchase what was a public asset is a loss to us all. Council housing is a common good. It offers an alternative to ownership. It provides a wider choice of tenure and as such, if properly supported and expanded, could offer a restraining force on ever rising house prices. One of the real problems of Right to Buy is the sale of properties ending up as private rented properties at extortionate rents. On Elm Manor Estate in Newsome there are ex Council houses that are now student rented accommodation. Students need homes like everyone else but for private landlords to make a killing largely at the public expense is just plain wrong.

Ultimately government need to recognise that having a mixed tenure of housing, with a strong and growing social rented sector is a good thing and that ownership of property is not always positive or desirable. I guess that makes me a dangerous communist and a threat to national security. I'll go and hand myself into the nearest police station immediately.

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