The Labour Government didn't officially end the right to buy for council tenants. But effectively they killed it off. By slashing the discounts they ensured that escaping municipal serfdom became overwhelmingly something that was unaffordable. John Prescott was responsible for this – during the supposed New Labour era of Blairite aspiration. Among the (many) Housing Ministers presiding over it at one time or another was Yvette Cooper.
In 1999 they cut the maximum discount to £38,000. Then in 2003 the discounts were cut again. In London the maximum discount of £16,000. In real terms the value of the discount in London has fallen from 53% in 1998 to 10%. Meanwhile property prices shot up. Since right to buy was introduced in 1980 two million homes were sold. But last year there were only 4,000 sales.
As of this week the right to buy policy is back. The discount is up to £75,000 – a trebling or, in some places, quadrupling of the amount.
David Cameron will launch the new offer today saying:
"I want many more people to achieve the dream of home ownership. In the 80s, right to buy helped millions of people living in council housing to achieve their aspiration of owning their own home.
"It gave something back to families who worked hard, paid their rent and played by the rules. It allowed them to do up their home, change their front door, improve their garden – without getting permission from the council. It gave people a sense of pride and ownership not just in their home, but in their street and neighbourhood, helping to build strong families and stable mixed communities.
"But, over time, the discounts were cut; they didn't keep pace with rises in property prices and this vital rung on the property ladder was all but removed. This government is now putting it back by dramatically increasing the discount rates so that we support the dreams of those council tenants who to want to own the roof over their head."
How many of the remaining two million council properties will be sold?
Tarek Tuzani and his partner Laura Stevens haven't wasted any time. They live in Standish House which is in Ravenscourt Park Ward which I represent in Hammersmith and Fulham. Yesterday, at 9am, they handed in their form and became the first people in the UK to sign up for a £75,000 Right to Buy extended discount. They plan to renovate their home and create a brand new bedroom for their baby daughter, Sophia. The family are pictured above with our Cabinet Member for Housing Cllr Andrew Johnson.
Tarek, 31, says:
"I am sure that we shall feel especially proud when we open the front door for the first time as owners of the property. We will finally be getting onto the housing ladder and it does feel quite empowering. Once we have bought the property we shall be looking to create the second room for Sophia very quickly."
We are setting up a road show going on estates around Hammersmith and Fulham to promote home ownership. Surveys show 70% of them want to be home owners. Now many more of them can be.