Four in 10 homes bought under the right-to-buy programme are now owned by private landlords, a new analysis has found.
Data obtained under Freedom of Information laws revealed that 40.2% of properties sold by local authorities under the scheme, introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1980, are now being rented out for profit.
The research by Inside Housing also found that tenants are now paying more than twice as much as when the homes were owned by local authorities.
Seven councils, including Bolsover, Brighton & Hove, Canterbury, Stevenage, Cheshire West & Chester, and Nuneaton & Bedworth, have private letting levels of more than 50% among their former council-owned properties.
In Milton Keynes the level rises to 70.9% of former right-to-buy homes now out for private rent.
The research did not identify the exact amount of rent paid by current tenants but the property industry magazine stated that average council rent in England is £88 per week, compared with £210 charged by private landlords.
Under Thatcher, the policy aimed to help “council tenants... acquire the rights and dignity of freeholders” as part of a property-owning democracy.
The current government is continuing with plans to extend the policy to housing association properties.
John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, said: “We desperately need more genuinely affordable homes, but the Conservatives’ right-to-buy means council homes are being sold off and communities are losing out.
“Only one in five homes recently sold under the right-to-buy has been replaced. As this research shows, too often these homes become buy-to-let investments with higher rents costing the taxpayer millions more in housing benefit.
“Labour will invest in the biggest council housebuilding programme in more than 30 years, and to ensure that areas can build and retain council homes for local people we will suspend the right-to-buy, allowing councils to reinstate it only if they can prove a plan to replace homes sold one-for-one and like-for-like.”
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “More than 77,500 tenants have used right to buy to purchase their home over the last five years, helping more people own a property.
“There are restrictions on selling on a property bought under right to buy within five years, and under our reinvigorated scheme every additional home sold off must be replaced by another one, nationally.
“Councils should deliver these additional affordable homes within three years, and so far they have achieved this.”
The figures are an increase on previous research which revealed 37.5% of right-to-buy homes were being let out in 2015.