The Blog

Margaret Thatcher the Council House Snatcher

There's no feeling like owning your own home - a retreat from the rest of the world, a safe haven, a place where you can fully express yourself. Does that feeling of satisfaction double when you have two or three properties?

There's no feeling like owning your own home - a retreat from the rest of the world, a safe haven, a place where you can fully express yourself. Does that feeling of satisfaction double when you have two or three properties? What about 93 homes to call your own? That's what has been allowed to happen under the Right to Buy policy that Margaret Thatcher implemented.

It is fair to say Margaret Thatcher's government wanted to increase home ownership with the Right to Buy policy and home owners feel a sense of security that renters never will. Right to Buy granted people who may never have been able to afford their own home massive discounts on their council house. If affordable housing had been built with the money made from the sales to meet demand of the future generations, the policy may well have been one of her greatest gifts to the hardworking people of Britain.

However, by stopping councils from using the money to build new homes, the Conservatives kick-started the affordable housing crisis we have presently. If you don't think we are in a crisis, how would you explain the 60% increase of families with children being housed in B&Bs between 2011 and 2012 (according) to Shelter with almost 4,000 families living in hostels?

During her 11 years as PM, Margaret Thatcher helped keep Britain one of the richest countries in the world and the City of London as a key financial player. In the city where the homeless situation is most critical, private rent keeps inflating and the cost of properties keeps rising. At both ends of the property market in London, the demand is unprecedented.

However to secure a so-called 'affordable' home via shared ownership or other schemes, large salaries and a substantial deposit is still required. At the other end of the spectrum, I have visited many luxury properties in and around the South East over the last year and it is a sad fact acknowledged by many in the industry that many of the properties won't be lived in at all or for a large chunk of the year by their owners.

The investors who have bought these high-end properties may also have former Right to Buy homes within their portfolios. An investigation by trade union GMB into the amount of privately owned homes in Wandsworth which were bought under Right To Buy showed of 15,874 dwellings in council blocks in the borough where tenants acquired the leasehold under this scheme, 6,180 are now owned by private landlords who rent them out to private tenants. That's 40% of those homes used for income rather than a place to call home. One landlord was found to own 93 properties whilst another was discovered to own 32.

It wasn't until ten years after Right to Buy launched, in 1990, that councils were allowed to use 25% of profits made from sales to build new homes. However, the amount of sales never reached the initial flush of the early 1980s. Some 971,000 sales were processed under Margaret Thatcher's government, 316,000 under John Major and 487,000 under the two Labour administrations from 1997 onwards. At present around 2million people have taken advantage of the scheme and sadly a very small proportion of the profit made from the sales has been used to provide new homes.

In the latest Budget, the amount of time required living in a council property before being allowed to buy it was relaxed to three years and council tenants will now be offered up to £75,000 in discounts. This a significant rise from Labour's £16,000 to £38,000, according to region, which was reduced to stop fraud and slow the bleeding out of the social housing stock. Despite the current push on affordable housing (read the article here) about the doubling of London starts, the demand is massively outweighing the supply at present and to increase council home sales at this point, is a move that shows David Cameron has learned nothing from the mistakes of his predecessors or simply doesn't care about those living in his country without a roof over their head.

Right to Buy was a policy implemented without care for the consequences of the future generations and it is naive to believe Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet couldn't predict the consequences of their decision. While the world says goodbye to 'the woman who made Britain great again' spare a thought for the homeless families who would probably disagree.