Scottish government will abolish right-to-buy in 2017. Now social housing tenants in Wales could lose the right to buy their homes if Labour wins the 2016 assembly election. Is this the end for the controversial government scheme?
Now a relic policy from the Thatcher-era, ‘right-to-buy’ allows most council tenants to buy their council home - at a discount. Since its inception in 1980, more than 1.5m homes in the UK have been bought under the scheme; over 130,000 of these were in Wales. Following on from Scotland’s announcement last year to discontinue the policy, right-to-buy now faces abolition in Wales by ministers who say that in the midst of a housing shortage, they want to protect the stock of social housing for those who truly need it.
The scheme will also be immediately suspended in Carmarthenshire due to local housing shortages and across Wales the maximum discount under the right-to-buy scheme is set to be cut from £16,000 to £8,000.
Right-to-buy has been a hot topic of debate within the housing industry for 35 years, with critics accusing it of compounding a housing shortage for those of low income, initiating a national house price bubble and causing displacement through ‘social cleansing’ of traditional communities. Supporters argue that the programme gave millions of households a tangible asset, secured their families finances and by releasing cash to repay Local Authority loans, helped improve the public finances.
Dyfed Edwards, the Welsh Local Government Association spokesperson for housing said “with many thousands of people currently on housing waiting lists, and at a time of acute shortages of affordable homes, the proposal from Welsh government to abolish right to buy is a welcome step in tackling a growing problem in Wales.”
The Welsh Conservative shadow minister for housing, Mark Isherwood disagreed, saying that “this is an anti-aspiration, nanny-state-knows-best decision, which limits housing supply and denies people in council properties the choice and power to buy their council house.”
Housing Minister Lesley Griffiths said she wanted to "protect social housing stock for people who really need it. Some of those houses have been bought through right-to-buy and ended up in the private rented sector, I want to ensure that people who require social housing don't have to languish on waiting lists for a long period of time."
Could Scotland and Wales turning their back on the scheme spell the end for right-to-buy in the UK?