The Right To Buy Zombie

Just as Right To Buy (RTB) has died the Tories are proposing to extend it to Housing Association properties.

Since council tenants got the right to buy their homes in 1980 roughly 1.76 million in England alone have done so. It’s become a totemic policy for many. Those against it point at the asset stripping of valuable housing, those for argue it’s a route into home ownership.

Eyeball the graph below, however, and it’s clear that whatever the pros and cons, RTB has died. From a peak 160,000 sales in 1982 to 2,000 in the last couple of years, RTB is no longer having any great effect on stock levels.

1980-2010 English RTB sales


Compare the current 2,000 RTB sales to:

“There were an estimated 8,510 total social housing sales to sitting tenants in England in 2009-10, an increase of 16 per cent on 2008-09. The increase contrasts with falls in social housing sales in recent years and was due to an increase in sales of Registered Provider properties.”


Yup, that’s right: of about 8,500 sales most weren’t RTB. They’ll be stock rationalisation by housing associations, maybe shared ownership buy outs, that kind of thing. RTB now has an insignificant impact on stock numbers and that won’t change in the future. Looking at the trend it’s impossible to imagine council stock RTBs ever going about 10,000 a year, and even that’s unlikely.

To speculate some factors reducing RTB sales:
1) All the good stuff was sold first, what’s left is not an attractive purchase.
2) The tenants who wanted to buy have done so.
3) As the change to allocating social housing by need in 1977 worked it’s way through the economic demographic of council tenants has shifted downwards so are less likely to be in a position to buy or gain from buying.
4) Large scale stock transfers from councils to housing associations – beginning in 1987 – have gradually reduced the numbers of tenants with a right to buy.

Anyway, whatever the reason, Right To Buy is clearly dead.

Or is it? The Tories are now trying to spread the joy – or rampant loss of stock, depending on your point of view – to housing assocations:

Curiously they’re tying it in to their proposed flexible tenancies. Now, housing associations would do pretty much anything to avoid RTB. It’ll completely screw their finances to try and secure debt against an asset they may have to sell at a discount. As the Tories are making the new flexible tenancies voluntary – HAs don’t have to adopt them – my guess is they’ve shot themselves in the foot by proposing to tie in RTB. My prediction is this will be dropped at some point.

One Response to The Right To Buy Zombie

  1. inks2010 says:

    As an update, the Welsh government are taking a starkly different approach to the UK coalition gov:

    It’s been in the pipeline for a while but they’ve now gone ahead and drafted proposals to allow Welsh local authorities to end RTB in their area. I don’t imagine many Welsh local authorities will turn down the opportunity, should the measure be passed.

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