Editor’s comment: Why Right to Buy makes me so angry

Mayor Phil Glanville on site at Aikin Court. Hackney Council is building new council homes, but can'

Mayor Phil Glanville on site at Aikin Court. Hackney Council is building new council homes, but can't keep up with the rate at which they have been lost through Right to Buy. Picture: Hackney Council/Sean Pollock - Credit: Archant

Whenever I read (or publish) anything about Right to Buy I generally end up spluttering and wringing my hands.

Never mind that councils have no way of replacing the homes that have been lost, while the waiting list is enormous (12,000) and growing.

Never mind the fact 50 per cent of the Hackney Council homes sold under the scheme are now in the hands of private landlords, who are renting out the same houses the council used to, but now beyond the price range of the people who need them.

Nope – unfortunately, it gets worse. After all that, councils aren’t even in control of the money they raise through selling their homes at a discount.

Bearing in mind there is nothing they can do about it if someone who meets the criteria decides to apply, that’s kind of kind of daylight robbery.

How so? Well, first of all, town halls have three years to use the cash for social housing.

Secondly, they can’t use it to bankroll more than 30pc of any housing schemes they do invest in.

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In other words, a council has to plan and deliver a development, and find 70pc of its cost elsewhere, in three years.

Unless it has enormous reserves (spoiler: Hackney isn’t Kensington and Chelsea), that’s nearly impossible, especially when you consider it’s not allowed to mix the money with grants from elsewhere – like when supermarket coupons say “may not be used in conjunction with any other offer”, except with bigger stakes than cheap washing powder.

And what happens if the town hall can’t use the money up? Apparently, the government simply snatches it back.

No one even knows what it’s used for. It just gets swallowed up by that good old national debt. If a council can’t find a way to deliver social housing within three years, it can kiss those receipts goodbye.

Hackney’s initiative to keep the cash locally is hardly a victory. The public purse is still being robbed blind for all the reasons I’ve given above.

But the town hall is to be commended for doing what it can – and we would all do well to remember who is really taking our homes (spoiler: it’s the government, not refugees).