Housing Policy Transformed: The Right to Buy and the Desire to Own

An exploration of the 'Right to Buy' policy.

The 'Right to Buy' is the most controversial housing policy of the last 30 years, but it is also the most successful. Margaret Thatcher’s government sought to open up owner occupation to working class households and to break the hold that local authorities had on rented housing. Both these aims were clearly met. The Right to Buy directly affected the lives of 2.5 million households by giving them the opportunity to become owner occupiers. Very few other housing policies have had anything like this effect.

But most studies of the 'Right to Buy' have focused on the costs of the policy and have sought to show its negative impact. This book, however, seeks to understand the 'Right to Buy' on its own terms. It explains how the policy links with a coherent ideology based on self-interest and the care of things close to us. It shows that the policy succeeded because it worked with the grain of household’s interests and aspirations. Instead of a policy that sought to do things for people, the 'Right to Buy' allowed them to do things for themselves.

'Being involved in the build up and aftermath of RTB was one of the most fascinating periods in my life. I can still hear Cllr "Red" Ted Knight angrily denouncing RTB in Lambeth Council Chamber. Yes Mrs Thatcher did worry that the middle classes might not like it. And when I showed her figures suggesting she should give away all council housing to tenants her instant reply was "People will not value them unless they pay at least something for them." These and many more memories of RTB came flooding back as I read King's exceptionally good book. He is right to point out that the ideological origins of RTB were not so much on the right of her party but on the left in Peter Walker and Michael Heseltine. The former was with me on giving them all away while the latter came up with the discount plan.RTB was momentous and King gets it right.' John Blundell, Distinguished Senior Fellow, IEA

2010, Published by the Policy Press, ISBN 978 1 847 422132, 136pp, HB

 

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