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3 May 2022

How Right to Buy fuelled the housing crisis

Many council homes sold through the scheme ended up on the private rental market.

By Nicu Calcea

Boris Johnson is considering reviving the Thatcher-era “Right to Buy” scheme by giving people the chance to purchase the properties they rent from housing associations at a discounted price.

Since 1980, when the scheme was first introduced, nearly two million council homes have been sold but only 1.2 million new social housing properties have been built, leading critics to warn that expanding the scheme would intensify the housing crisis.


A New Statesman analysis shows that the number of new-builds radically declined at the same time as Right to Buy was introduced in 1980, vastly reducing the number of social homes available for rent.

Polly Neate, chief executive of the housing charity Shelter, said: “Right to Buy has already torn a massive hole in our social housing stock as less than 5 per cent of the homes sold off have ever been replaced. There could not be a worse time to sell off what remains of our last truly affordable social homes.”

Many of the homes sold through the scheme ended up on the private rental market, a 2015 analysis for the Communities and Local Government Select Committee found. A BBC investigation estimated that former social homes in England, Wales and Scotland have been re-sold for a collective profit of £6.4bn between 2000 and 2018, with some homes resold just a month after they were bought from local authorities.

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