The return of Right to Buy is not good news for landlords

Plans to fire up a new Right to Buy scheme will make these problems much, much worse. 

Mrs Thatcher’s scheme helped millions of people get on the housing ladder, but it left a trail of destruction because of the failure to build new council homes to replace them. From 1980 to 2021, 1.8 million families in England purchased a home from their local authority using Right to Buy. Across the same period, just 358,350 new local authority properties were built – that’s a replacement rate of less than 20pc.

The statistics for housing associations are better. In England, 145,998 people purchased from housing associations using Right to Buy across the same period. A total of 835,850 new homes were built. But this boost from the private social housing sector does not come close to plugging the local authority gap.

I have little faith our current Government could do any better. Local authority housing delivery today is still shockingly low. In the 1977-78 financial year, 115,840 local authority properties were built. In the last financial year, the number was 1,650. That is a drop of nearly 99pc. The number of housing association completions increased by only 8pc across the same period. The national population has grown by a fifth.

The cost of living crisis will make things worse. A new Right to Buy scheme would further reduce the supply of social housing, just as British households face the largest drop in real disposable incomes on record. More renters will default on payments to their landlords.

Some buy-to-let investors have already found a way to benefit from the shortage. A growing number now lease directly to the councils that don’t have any social homes left. Local authorities typically guarantee the rent on long-term leases, often at a premium. But relying more on the system is not healthy and in the end it will be taxpayers that lose out.

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