Here’s why the Tories’ new right to buy policy would cost us £11.6bn

Prime minister David Cameron – the man with the plan. Not a good plan. But a plan, nonetheless. Image: Getty.

The Conservatives have announced their flagship housing policy: extending Right to Buy to include housing association homes, funded by selling off local authority homes when they become vacant. Ambitiously, they say these receipts will also fund brownfield regeneration and replacing stock.

But, first things first – let’s look at how many people this will affect and how much it would cost.

People would only be able to buy their home under this scheme if they can afford it and meet certain eligibility critera. Firstly, they need to have lived in their property for at least three years – 1.4m households fit this criterion1.

Secondly, we should only count those who don’t currently have “Preserved Right to Buy” (that is, those who retained their right to buy, after their home was transferred from the council to a housing association), because they can already buy with a large discount.

We estimate there to be around 550,000 households that are already eligible for this2, leaving 850,000 households eligible for the new proposal.

But crucially, they need to be able to afford to buy the home after the discount. Under Conservative plans, the discount would start at 35 per cent, and increase by one percentage point for every year they have been a tenant in that home (up to a maximum of 70 per cent, or a cash cap of over £103,000 in London and just under £80,000 elsewhere). Based on the average length of occupancy3 (between nine to 12 years depending on the region), the household income required to afford a 95 per cent mortgage after the discount varies between £14,000 and £31,0004.

Even with this discount, not every household could afford such a mortgage – the proportion of tenants varies by region, from 15 per cent to 35 per cent5. This means that, across the country, there are 221,000 households that are eligible for the new proposal and able to afford the mortgage6. If all of these households decide to take up the scheme, it would cost £11.6bn7. Indeed, the longer the scheme operates for, the bigger the per centage discount, and the more households that could become eligible.

This is a significant amount of money that needs to be funded from sales of council property.

Many questions arise from all this:

  • Will the sale of council properties raise enough to pay for this scheme, brownfield regeneration and replacing council stock in the same area?
  • Will council house sales happen at the same rate as people who take up this new Right to Buy?
  • What will be the impact of losing social homes in high value areas (particularly rural areas) and can they be replaced?
  • How will lenders of housing associations react, if they know homes can be sold off after three years?
  • Will the larger, higher value and better housing stock be sold first?

With so much at stake, there are too many unanswered questions about how the policy would work in practice – and about the impact on affordable housing supply across the country.

Joe Sarling is senior analyst at the National Housing Federation.



1 English Housing Survey

2 NHF amended estimates from DCLG Impact Assessment

3 English Housing Survey

4 DCLG using average local authority Right to Buy sale price

5 English Housing Survey

6 NHF analysis

7 NHF analysis



There isn’t a war on the motorist. We should start one

These bloody people. Image: Getty.

When should you use the horn on a car? It’s not, and anyone who has been on a road in the UK in living memory will be surprised to hear this, when you are inconvenienced by traffic flow. Nor is it when you are annoyed that you have been very slightly inconvenienced by another driver refusing to break the law in a manner that is objectively dangerous, but which you perceive to be to your advantage.

According to the Highway Code:

“A horn should only be used when warning someone of any danger due to another vehicle or any other kind of danger.”

Let’s be frank: neither you nor I nor anyone we have ever met has ever heard a horn used in such a manner. Even those of us who live in or near places where horns perpetually ring out due to the entitled sociopathy of most drivers. Especially those of us who live in or near such places.

Several roads I frequently find myself pushing a pram up and down in north London are two way traffic, but allow parking on both sides. This being London that means that, in practice, they’re single track road which cars can enter from both ends.

And this being London that means, in practice, that on multiple occasions every day, men – it is literally always men – glower at each other from behind the steering wheels of needlessly big cars, banging their horns in fury that circumstances have, usually through the fault of neither of them, meant they are facing each other on a de facto single track road and now one of them is going to have to reverse for a metre or so.

This, of course, is an unacceptable surrender as far as the drivers’ ego is concerned, and a stalemate seemingly as protracted as the cold war and certainly nosier usually emerges. Occasionally someone will climb out of their beloved vehicle and shout and their opponent in person, which at least has the advantages of being quieter.

I mentioned all this to a friend recently, who suggested that maybe use of car horns should be formally restricted in certain circumstances.

Ha ha ha. Hah.

The Highway Code goes on to say -

“It is illegal to use a horn on a moving vehicle on a restricted road, a road that has street lights and a 30 mph limit, between the times of 11:30 p.m. and 07:00 a.m.”

Is there any UK legal provision more absolutely and comprehensively ignored by those to whom it applies? It might as well not be there. And you can bet that every single person who flouts it considers themselves law abiding. Rather than the perpetual criminal that they in point of fact are.

In the 25 years since I learned to drive I have used a car horn exactly no times, despite having lived in London for more than 20 of them. This is because I have never had occasion to use it appropriately. Neither has anyone else, of course, they’ve just used it inappropriately. Repeatedly.

So here’s my proposal for massively improving all UK  suburban and urban environments at a stroke: ban horns in all new cars and introduce massive, punitive, crippling, life-destroying fines for people caught using them on their old one.

There has never been a war on motorists, despite the persecution fantasies of the kind of middle aged man who thinks owning a book by Jeremy Clarkson is a substitute for a personality. There should be. Let’s start one. Now.

Phase 2 will be mandatory life sentences for people who don’t understand that a green traffic light doesn’t automatically mean you have right of way just because you’re in a car.

Do write in with your suggestions for Phase 3.