Labour London Assembly member Tom Copley has released a report entitled “From Right to Buy to Buy to Let” in which he reveals 36% of council homes sold off under Right to Buy in London are now let out by private landlords. He rightly criticizes the waste of taxpayers’ money as local authorities are having to rent back their own former ex-council homes at higher market rates and pay out more in Housing Benefit. Where he goes too far, however, is in his criticism of the role landlords have played in this, describing how it is now ‘lining the pockets of under-regulated landlords’. He also fails to note any of the benefits which have arisen thanks to private ownership and renting.
Firstly, let’s recall that Right to Buy, although originally a Tory policy, continued quite happily under the Labour Government. Presumably this means both parties were glad to encourage the aspirations of those in council housing. Now we must ask, who are these ‘under-regulated’ landlords lining their pockets? Presumably a certain number of them are those who bought their home and then decided (or were forced) to rent rather than sell. Here is a case of double-standards: encourage people’s aspiration and then essentially criticize them for being too aspirational. And the other landlords are presumably those who have bought the council house from a former council tenant at a fair market price and have to charge rents to cover the mortgage payments. We have seen time and again that generally speaking landlords are far from lining their pockets and in fact work hard to keep rents steady (in contrast to local authority rents…).
The report also fails to highlight any of the good which has some from the reduction of council housing in the capital. The Economist has a good summary of the main ideas: it gives people the freedom to move instead of tying them to a property to life, it promotes re-generation of important areas and encourages aspiration. The topic will continue to be debated extensively. For now, all Rentify wishes to emphasises is that the blame for the negative aspects of Right to Buy must be laid squarely at the feet of successive governments – all of whom have failed to build enough new housing – and not at the feet of pro-active and law-abiding landlords.