A Financial Times article opens: “David Cameron, prime minister, this month put forward what could be one of the worst policy ideas ever: extending “Right to Buy” to allow housing association tenants to purchase their homes for less than they are worth. It would make the housing supply crisis worse, by removing housing associations capacity to build more homes. It would push up rents, by creating a buy-to-let bonanza.

“Unfair and shameful . . .”

bournville social housing

Peter Roach, chief executive of Bournville Village Trust – a housing treasure trove – described the plan as “unfair and shameful . . .”. He said: “We understand people’s home ownership aspirations, but the concept of giving huge amounts of taxpayers’ money to provide discounts for people already enjoying the comfort of good quality affordable homes whilst at the same time watching waiting lists soar is unfair and shameful.”

Points made in the FT by Peabody Trust’s CE include:

  • One in three of the homes bought under Right to Buy, has been privately rented often to recipients of housing benefit.
  • A continuation of this would mean higher rents, with the taxpayer funding housing benefit payments.
  • This would be a compulsory transfer of social and charitable assets, at a discount, to people who have already benefited from sub-market rents and security of tenure.
  • A social asset would be lost.
  • Only one in 10 social homes sold under this scheme has so far been replaced.

MEP Keith Taylor has issued a new report on the UK housing crisis which demonstrates that the current system, with its unaffordable prices and rents and a depleted stock of social housing, is directly linked to Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy policy, and the failures of successive governments to ensure that those in greatest need are provided for.

Its summarised recommendations:

  • Rent control and tenant protection.
  • Investment in social housing as the best way of ensuring an availability of genuinely affordable housing.
  • New taxation frameworks to ensure those who have benefited from the property boom are contributing a fair share and disincentivise speculation and land banking.
  • New powers for local authorities to deal with empty properties, and the decriminalisation of squatting.
  • Structures to support and promote housing co-operatives.
  • Improved standards for construction and maintenance of all homes, to improve quality of life for residents and tackle domestic emissions.

Mr Taylor concludes that, though the current housing system is failing people, this doesn’t have to be the case. His report demonstrates that housing has become unsustainably expensive, and that fresh political will and innovative mechanisms are needed to make housing work for people again.

Keith Taylor sits on the Environment Committee and the Transport and Tourism Committee within the European Parliament. He also sits on the delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council.

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