One of the most critical issues introduced in the Conservative party manifesto this morning was the extension of Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Right-to-Buy’ scheme.
The current system permits tenants to buy flats and houses from their local councils at a discount of up to 70% – £102,700 for London residences. David Cameron has pledged to extend this scheme to 500,000 people and to increase the discount for another 800,000 tenants, allowing up to 1.3 million housing association tenants to buy their homes at a discounted price.
The first of the policies revealed from the Conservative manifesto is controversial to say the least. Although the Tories have promised 400,000 new homes in brownfield sites to replace housing stock lost, it remains that there will be a significant loss of affordable social housing.
The Conservative party plan to recover the costs by forcing local councils to sell their most expensive properties to private owners when they become vacant. This is expected to generate roughly 15,000 available flats and houses each year.
Labour housing spokesperson Emma Reynolds claims that the plan will cost more than it is worth. She states that the existing scheme made “just over £100 million” last year, which is underwhelming in light of the £4.5 billion cost. The National Housing Association is equally unenthused, claiming closer to £5.8 billion of taxpayers’ money would be used by the scheme.
However, a policy of investment in what has otherwise been a party dedicated to profit and austerity could win Mr. Cameron votes, as it did Margaret Thatcher 36 years ago.