Londoners have spoken; 82% believe radical action is now needed to address the housing crisis (Ipsos Mori poll of 1,000 Londoners).
This week we also learned that Private landlords have bought up half of the former council homes in some of London’s poorest boroughs by exploiting Margaret Thatcher’s celebrated right-to-buy scheme.
These findings come from a report by London Assembly member Tom Copley. “This shows that Right to Buy currently represents incredibly poor value for money to taxpayers,” Mr Copley said.
“Not only did they pay to build the home in the first place, they then subsidised the considerable discounts offered to tenants and then missed out on the rental income that would have covered the build costs.”
Across the capital at least 36% of one-time council homes are now rented out privately but that proportion is even higher in some of the poorest areas.
And Tower Hamlets, where four in 10 children now live in poverty, has the highest proportion of homes that were sold through right-to-buy but are now believed to be privately let.
Who benefits from Thatcher’s Right-to-Buy, resurrected enthusiastically under David Cameron? Tax payers, who paid for council houses to be built only for them to be sold off into the private rented sector at knocked down rates? The hundreds of thousands of people languishing on council housing waiting lists? Or private landlords, who we learn this week have bought up half of London’s former council homes and are now letting them out at extortionate rents, very often subsidised by the tax payer through housing benefit?
Some London councils are actually having to rent their own ex-council homes from landlords who bought them under the Right to Buy scheme.
Copley has recommends that there should be mandatory covenants on all Right to Buy properties so they can’t be let through the private rented sector and that local authorities should retain an equity stake in any property sold.
Government policy is propping up ruthless private landlords whilst ignoring the dire housing needs of ordinary people. Last week, large buy-to-let Tycoons Fergus Wilson announced they would be evicting 200 families who are in receipt of benefits.
Fergus Wilson have been widely vilified in the press, after stating in a candid interview with Channel 4 that they knew they were condemning victims of domestic violence to return to abusive husbands.
But it’s naive to expect private landlords to act with a sense of moral responsibility towards tenants. The Government should be protecting renters but regulating private landlords to get rid of naked discrimination, debilitating rent increases and forced evictions. They should be building social, genuinely affordable housing and replacing those sold under Right-to-Buy, rather than relying on the market to provide this huge social necessity.
It’s time the Government woke up to the anger and misery being caused by their housing policies and begun to address the nation’s desperate and worsening housing need.