Right to buy: why not extend it to private landlords too?
If housing associations have to sell their properties at a discount under ludicrous ‘right to buy’ legislation, why shouldn’t all private landlords be forced sell up on the cheap?
Just before the election, I wrote that extending the right to buy' to the housing association sector was the worst policy of the campaign. I added that, given the dismal policies being suggested elsewhere, that was really saying something.
With the election won, I assumed the Conservatives would quietly ditch the idea and get on with finding a way to bring house prices down, rather than coming up with more ways to prop them up.
Sadly, it isn't so.
The Tories appear determined to press ahead with the policy despite the warnings from almost everyone that it will do nothing to raise the supply of homes and everything to create a "buy-to-let bonanza" for those who get to buy their houses at a discount. It will, as Rowan Moore puts it in the Guardian, "segregate cities, fuel house price inflation and increase the number of homes that are used as units of speculation".
It will also do something worse make all tenants feel hard done by. When I wrote about this before the election, I pointed out that if it makes sense to force the housing associations (who are private, not state landlords) to sell at a discount, why does it not make sense to force all private landlords sell up on the cheap?
"If I was a buy-to-let investor letting to anyone getting Housing Benefit, I might start worrying about how long it is until I am forced to rent to them at a discount to the market price,"Iwrote at the time.
Thatconversationhas begun. A letter in the FT today from a Mr Peter Cave puts the case: "If propertyownershipmerits such high priority," he says, "why doesthegovernment not grant a right to buy against all those who have 'bought to let?'"
The private tenants of buy-to-let investors have "littlesecurityof tenure, littlecontrolover rent increases andhaveno share oftheproperty value.If we must think in terms of property ownership then if anyone deserves the right to buy at a discount it is those tenantsor at the very least they deserve the righttoshare in the property's increase in value. What is sauce for the tenant gooseshould also be sauce fortheprivate tenant gander."
Something new for buy-to-let investors who have stoppedworryingaboutrent controls, rising interest rates and second home taxes to think about. Or perhapsto petitionthegovernment on.