Editor’s comment: Right to buy? I’m not sure it is

Stoneleigh Terrace on the Whittington Estate in Camden, where flats have sold for up to �815,000. Pi

Stoneleigh Terrace on the Whittington Estate in Camden, where flats have sold for up to �815,000. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

I don’t blame anyone for wanting to buy their council house.

The Kerridge Court estate in Islington, where ex-council homes have sold for up to £455,000. Picture

The Kerridge Court estate in Islington, where ex-council homes have sold for up to £455,000. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Competition for social housing is high and it cannot be passed on indefinitely; the private rental market is unreliable and extortionate; and social care has been scaled back and privatised to such an extent some may feel they have little choice but to invest in property simply to pay their own bills, never mind finance their futures.

In an uncertain world, people want a bit of stability for themselves and their families.

No, the people I blame for the way Right to Buy has eroded housing stock are the ones who introduced it – and the governments who have failed to give councils the tools to manage it.

The Stamford Hill estate, where flats were selling for �415,000 in 2017. Picture: Polly Hancock

The Stamford Hill estate, where flats were selling for �415,000 in 2017. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

The desire to pass a stable home on to your kids is understandable – but Right to Buy put that instinct in direct competition with the need for councils to house those in need.


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The result is London boroughs forking out eyewatering amounts to rent squalid B&B rooms and sending families to live in Birmingham.

Without enough of their own stock, councils must pick up the bill for renting it from private landlords, leaving even less to spend on building.

Brindley Estate in Maida Vale.

Brindley Estate in Maida Vale. - Credit: Archant

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It is councils whose “dream of home ownership” should have been prioritised. Social homes are Britain’s family silver; selling them off should have been recognised as unpatriotic, but in the age of privatisation Thatcher made the reverse seem true.

Her government’s master stroke was to create a generation that saw housing as an investment, not a human right.

Of course, the wealth created through Right to Buy has been used to fund good things: businesses, higher education, money to spend locally.

The Watling Gardens estate in Kilburn, where flats were selling for around �191,000 in 2007. Picture

The Watling Gardens estate in Kilburn, where flats were selling for around �191,000 in 2007. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

And people who could not otherwise have afforded those things deserve them as much as those who have more money than they can count.

But the government’s aim should be to bring a better qualify of life within everyone’s reach without housing lists spiralling into the thousands.

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