On housing, David Cameron is like the cartoon prospector who crawls down a long hole into a dark room filled with crates of TNT marked “Right to Buy.” Reaching for his tinderbox, he lights a match to see better. “Where am I?” BOOM! As the dust settles, he looks around. Most of the crates are gone, and those that remain are of poor quality. Thinking himself lucky that he already has more than enough of his own TNT, he exits the room, leaving those who come after him to fight over the scraps.
Having discovered that austerity talk does not make for a positive election campaign, David Cameron has decided to sell “the good life” to voters. In Thatcherite terms, this can only mean one thing, the expansion of the right to buy policy. Under current rules, around 800,000 housing association tenants have a “right to acquire” their homes at a reduced discount to that available to those in council properties – up to £77,900 or £103,900 depending on how long you’ve lived in the property. Under the proposed changes, the Conservatives would now offer housing association tenants the same reduction.
Additionally, Cameron announced that councils would be forced to sell properties ranked in the most expensive third of their type in the local area once they become vacant. These houses would then be sold on a “one to one” basis, with estimates suggesting this would involved 15,000 houses a year (0.4 per cent of total stock) and raise £4.5bn. This money would be spent on funding the right to buy policy, paying off local authority debt, replacing the sold council house, and setting up a “Brownfield Regeneration Fund.”