The Right to Buy con trick….
Right to Buy is one of those policies that, at the time, was a great idea politically speaking (it cemented an electoral alliance that sustained Thatcher for many an election and was only broken by the Poll Tax) but was always a poor idea economically speaking. Owning your own home is great, wonderful and fantastic but for too many people it came with the attached price tag of a lifetime of debt that ultimately proved to be unmanageable, especially in the face of falling incomes etc, etc and not only this but it drives up rents and hits housing stock so it has a detrimental effect even on those who didn’t take the plunge. Indeed, the right to buy policy is one of the underlying causation factors that led to the current economic crisis.
So, in a fashion that is pretty typical of this government, we find the idea revived without real thought of the consequences. It was bad enough then but in the context of austerity, rising unemployment, depressed wages and high prices, it is a policy which is plainly speaking barking mad. Not only is it going to increase and widen the debt burden carried by individual households but it will also, experts warn, diminish an already stretched housing stock and lead to already long waiting lists for council housing growing vastly in length. Doubts even exist about whether tenants will be offered mortgages in the first place given the banks new-found reluctance to offer any form of credit.
Right to buy is a giant confidence trick. Owning your own home is of precious little worth if you can’t afford the repayments, to heat the house or even worse to feed and clothe your own family. Obviously, the Conservatives political intention is to re-forge the electoral alliance that sustained Thatcher, to co-opt the aspirational working class and the middle classes into their ideological pipe-dream. However, it won’t work this time around because right to buy in this economic climate can’t function; credit was much more easily accessible in the early 80’s and the economy was in much general better shape.
My prediction is that this will backfire spectacularly. Nobody with any aspiration should support this government; neither it nor the actual social system is in a position to deliver anymore and that is painfully obvious with eyes to see, or who is currently scraping the bottom of the barrel to try to afford their offsprings University tuition fees. Labour should be exposing the right to buy scheme for what it is and pointing to the urgent need to address our housing crisis by increasing, not depleting, the stock of social housing. It should be arguing that we need to move beyond the highly consumerist notion that deeds of ownership are the be all and end all and we need to culturally adjust to the vast majority not owning entirely our own homes. Co-operative ownership has a bright future in this policy area especially and not only is it more economically rational they help foster a true community spirit. This may not be an initially popular line to take but once the hard facts are explained to hard-pressed families they will soon realise that the dream of owning their own home can and most likely will quickly become a nightmare, disguised cunningly by the confidence tricksters in government to suit their own political ends.