We have 17,500 council homes in my borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. Last year just seven were sold under the right to buy. Since 2004 the scheme was effectively killed off with the cap on discounts of £16,000.
But now the scheme has been revived with the maximum discount increased to £75,000. Already this month in my borough we have 250 people applying to buy.
On Saturday we held at H&F Right to Buy Roadshow in King Street with almost 400 people queuing up to find out about their eligibility. The gratitude of those whose dream of home ownership had suddenly become realistic was quite emotional. A lot of them imagined it was a council initiative rather than something that had come from the Government. We have another roadshow in White City on May 19th – in that part of our borough the £75,000 discount goes rather further.
Of course some of the applications will fall through because they won't be able to get mortgages. Some lenders are requiring a deposit despite the discount. But my own hunch is that we are on the brink of a second home ownership revolution with a huge number of sales.
Frankly if the right to buy can take off in my borough given our level of property prices then I expect it will elsewhere in the country where exercising it is more affordable.
Why is the Government not promoting the policy more? Where are the ads on TV and in the press? Think of the huge amount of advertising for British Gas privatisation in 1986. The endless reminders to "Tell Sid." That was a sale where the Government raised £9 billion. A modest some compared to the potential proceeds from right to buy sales – of which The Treasury will snaffle 75% and councils retain the rest to pay for building replacement homes.