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Is Right to Buy set for a comeback?

Paloma Kubiak
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Paloma Kubiak

The government is reportedly looking to relaunch a version of the Right to Buy scheme, offering housing association tenants the chance to purchase their homes at a discount.

The prime minister has tasked his policy unit with putting together proposals for how such a scheme could work, according to weekend newspaper reports.

Right to Buy was a flagship policy of Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s, which resulted in almost three million council homes being sold at a reduced price to tenants. A version of the scheme is still in operation today, offering eligible tenants a potential discount of up to £87,200 (rising to £116,200 in London) so long as they are a secure tenant and have been a public sector tenant for at least three years.

Currently around 2.5 million households rent their homes from housing associations.

According to the reports, Boris Johnson believes the revamped Right to Buy scheme would help many renters in areas like the Midlands and the North East, so called “red wall” areas which have traditionally voted Labour but instead voted Conservative in 2019.

The idea of relaunching Right to Buy comes ahead of the local elections this Thursday.

David Cameron previously raised the idea of a housing association version of the scheme when he was Prime Minister, with pilots held in 2016 and 2018, however nothing came of them.

The suggestion of a new Right to Buy scheme has not been welcomed by housing campaigners, who caution that it will only make the shortage of affordable housing worse.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, described it as a “hare-brained idea” which was “the opposite of what the country needs”.

She added: “Right to Buy has already torn a massive hole in our social housing stock as less than 5% of the homes sold off have ever been replaced. These half-baked plans have been tried before and they’ve failed. Over one million households are stuck on social housing waiting lists in England, and with every bill skyrocketing, the government should be building more social homes so we have more, not less.”

Last month the Right to Buy scheme was branded a “strategic failure”, with around 40% of the council homes purchased ending up being owned by private landlords.