Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rights and Wrongs of a Crisis; Is Margaret Thatcher's Right to Buy Scheme to Blame for the Housing Crisis We Now Find Ourselves in? MIKE KELLY Reports

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rights and Wrongs of a Crisis; Is Margaret Thatcher's Right to Buy Scheme to Blame for the Housing Crisis We Now Find Ourselves in? MIKE KELLY Reports

Article excerpt

SOME would argue the root of the housing crisis in the UK revealed this week is also hampering the way the Government intends to solve it.

Veteran Labour peer Lord Jeremy Beecham has lived through a time when there was a surfeit of social housing compared to today with stocks not so much depleted as decimated by Margaret Thatcher's 'Right to Buy' scheme.

Despite this, he says, "there's ideological obsession with the right to buy. There are other ways to deal with housing need".

He said the Government's housing policy was a shambles because it left too few affordable homes to both rent or buy, adding that building more social housing was crucial to deal with the problem.

The right-to-buy obsession stems from the 1980 Housing Act, still one of the defining moments of Mrs Thatcher's government, offering tenants who had lived in their council home for three years or more the chance to purchase them at discounts on their market value from 33% to 50%.

Other incentives included the chance to put down a PS100 deposit, stalling the sale for two years, then buying at the earlier value.

There was also guaranteed 100% mortgages available from the local authority. The take-up has been huge with almost 2m council homes sold at a discount.

Its champions said it gave the aspirational working class the opportunity to own their own home and improve their financial circumstances.

Opponents said it sold public assets at a knock-down rate and has caused distorted house prices, substantially contributing to the housing crisis. However it was seen as a master stroke and last year, then Prime Minister David Cameron, announced the Government would extend right to buy to housing association homes.

But this time round it was met with a lukewarm response by those who said it would make the housing crisis worse.

And just this week in the Right to Buy scheme in Scotland ended. MSPs voted to scrap the measure in 2014 following concerns that it had contributed to an acute shortage of social housing.

Lord Beecham, the former leader of Newcastle City Council and head of the Local Government Association said: "When I became a councillor in 1967, that year we built 3,000 council homes in Newcastle.

"I can't remember the last time that number were built nationally (by local authorities) in a year."

Analysis by the Resolution Foundation think-tank today revealed today showed home ownership in England had fallen to its lowest level since 1986.

And in this region, the proportion of people who own their house has fallen from a peak of 64% in April 2003, to 56.5% now - the lowest figure in Britain apart from Inner London.

In England, house ownership rates have fallen 7% from a peak of Turn to Page 30 From Page 29 70.8% in April 2003 to 63.8% February 2016, while across the UK it has dropped 6. …

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