Council houses, already in limited supply, are being sold off on the cheap to people who immediately rent them back to housing benefit tenants, according to an Independent investigation that exposes a new “Right to Buy” scandal.
Cameron launched a revamped version of Right to Buy in 2012, giving new preferential terms. He increased the cap on the maximum discount to £75,000 (or £100,000 for London). This means a quadrupling of the discount in London and a trebling for most parts of Britain.
Now the Independent has uncovered evidence that the Government’s drive to encourage councils to sell off their already limited supplies of housing stock is allowing former council tenants to profiteer as buy-to-let landlords.
Margaret Thatcher coerced local authorities who were strapped for cash in the 1980s to sell their properties at a cut price, and the Tory Government’s latest initiative to encourage councils to sell off their remaining stock of houses is having a disastrous effect because it allows social housing, intended to house those people in most need of housing, to be exploited for personal profit. The policy, introduced in 1980, gave generous discounts for council tenants to buy their own home. More than two million homes were sold under Right to Buy between 1980 and 1995.
Local authorities, already facing massive funding cuts, now have to pay much more to place vulnerable families in properties that were once council-owned. At least 32 councils now rent or pay out housing benefit to tenants living in homes sold since the Government revamped the Right to Buy scheme in 2012, Freedom of Information requests show.
There are rules to deter the immediate sale of properties bought under Right to Buy but renting is unregulated, so the Government’s hefty discounts on sales have turned former council tenants into buy-to-let landlords overnight. Council leaders have branded the situation a national scandal.
In April 2012, David Cameron increased the cap on the maximum discount to £75,000, or £100,000 for London. In the borough of Haringey 396 homes have been sold under Right to Buy since April 2012; of those, 28 are already being rented out to people on housing benefit at a cost of more than £265,000 a year to the public purse.
And of course the real costs of the Tory Right To Buy scheme are shouldered by those in greatest need of accommodation, who are forced to rent from the increasingly unaffordable private sector, whilst private landlords rake in profits. This means that people are forced to cut their spending on essentials like food and heating, or uproot and move away from community, jobs, schools and families.
There are currently five million people on housing waiting lists. The lack of affordable council and social housing has become even more acute due to the Government slashing the budget for building new social housing by 60%, soon after gaining office.
This Government’s housing policies are creating misery for thousands of families.