In 1979, Margaret Thatcher was voted in on a Tory landslide with the ‘right to buy your own council house’ being a mainstay of Conservative policy. She encouraged people to buy their own council flats and houses, although it might interest you to know, that the council tenant ‘right to buy’ idea was first proposed in the late 1950’s and formed part of the manifesto of the Labour party. Yet Maggie’s version was based on massive discounts for tenants and 100% mortgages (i.e. no deposit). However, the real bugbear was that half the monies raised from the house sales went to central Government and the other half to the local authorities… but that money had to be used to reduce the local authorities’ debt rather than building new houses – so houses were being sold and not replaced.
1,787 council homes in the Lancaster area have been bought in the last 40 years (an average of 45 per year)
Interestingly, the Tories relaxed the rules in 2012 for right to buy and raised the highest discount on a property to £75,000 (it has subsequently increased further, to £100,000, in some parts of the UK). 79 council houses have been sold locally since the rule change, raising £5,915,790 since 2012.
The issue, according to many existing council house tenants, is that those tenants-turned-homeowners subsequently sell on their ex-council homes at a huge profit, meaning the demographics of those areas has become ever more transient. More specifically, properties that were once council homes are now owned by buy-to-let landlords who rent them out on a short-term basis.
Yet up to this point in time, nothing has been said about ‘other’ type of social housing – housing association properties. Whilst council houses are properties owned by the local authority providing low cost social housing, housing associations also provide lower-cost social housing for people in need of a home, yet they are private, non-profit making organisations.
The Tories state that one of the biggest divides in our British society is between those who can and cannot afford their own home, so they plan to establish a new national model for shared ownership which allows people in new housing association properties to buy a proportion of their home while paying a lower/subsidised rent on the remaining part – helping thousands of lower income earners get a step onto the housing ladder.
So, what for the tenants of the existing 1,039 housing association households in Lancaster? The Conservatives have said they will work with housing associations on a voluntary basis to determine what right to buy offer could be made to those Lancaster tenants, although there are already existing rules which give most housing association tenants the right to buy their home, yet with only modest discounts of £9,000 to £16,000 depending on where you live. So, what does all this mean for the current homeowners and landlords of Lancaster properties?
The Tories sold off 1,128 council houses in Lancaster whilst in power between 1979 and 1997
This really created waves in the housing market in the 1980’s and was a contributory factor to the housing crash of 1987, when Dual-MIRAS tax relief was removed by Nigel Lawson. By the selling off council housing in those years they were accused of selling off the family silver cheaply, thus creating the foundation of the buy-to-let boom of the early to mid 2000’s, because of the major shortage of affordable housing being sold in the previous two decades.
Yet this time round, note the Tories have stated this is just for new housing association properties, not existing. Also, that tenants will have the right to go into shared ownership – not outright ownership. This means this policy will have hardly any effect… unlike the Thatcher policies of 1979.