Owning a home is an aspiration that people have wholeheartedly bought into in the UK. It’s quite the British tradition; my home is my castle and all. Why then, when so many people have taken up the opportunity to buy their council houses and turn them into homes, has Welsh Labour decided to try and abolish their right to do so?
As the article linked above states, 139,000 council and housing association homes have been sold to the people who live in them, something I see as nothing but good. People will almost always look after their stuff more than somebody else’s. Unfortunately it would appear Welsh Labour does not see it as good, they see it as problematic. It certainly doesn’t surprise me. It’s been long established in Welsh political circles that Welsh Labour and Jeremy Corbyn share far more in common than the First Minister, Carwyn Jones would like to admit. Wales is increasingly becoming a big state, nannying and interfering country as the Welsh Government continues to mess around with our lives. This is just a continuation of the ‘we know better than the people’ principle.
It is argued that Right to Buy needs to go because of the reduction in housing stock, a fall of 45% since the Thatcher policy was introduced in the 1980s. This might hold some sway, but the reason for a fall in housing stock isn’t solely because they’re being sold, it’s largely because they’re not being built. Only 966 council homes were built in Wales in 2016, all of them by Housing Associations. But even if these council houses were not being bought by their tenants, those same tenants would still be living in them. Basically, for every council house that is sold, one council tenant no longer requires social housing.
One argument I have a lot of sympathy for is the argument against the large discount that council houses are sold at. In England, houses can be sold under the Right to Buy scheme at more than £100,000 less than their market value. This in my mind needs to be addressed. It’s one thing to offer assistance to those looking to own their own homes, it’s entirely another to expect the taxpayer to pay, in some cases more than three quarters of the cost of such homes.
The solution to the problem of social housing lies between these two points; building more social houses and reducing the discount offered under Right to Buy. Both of these points can be influenced by the Welsh Government and I implore them to look further at these before taking the rash decision to deny social housing tenants the opportunity to rise out of state dependence, a rise that everyone should be in favour of.