32% of Right to Buy Homes in Lewisham now privately let

A new report ("Right to Buy to Let") from the London Assembly finds that 32% of homes bought through the Right to Buy scheme are now let by private landlords. The figure is lower than the London average of 36%, but shows the extent to which the private rented sector has replaced Council-let housing, rather than creating residents with a long-term equity stake in their community, which was the original aim of the policy, introduced in 1980.

Author of the report, Assembly Member Tom Copley, says:

Right to Buy has also resulted in the situation where councils now rent back homes that they once owned from private landlords at much higher rents in order to fulfil their statutory duties. The increased rental costs are then usually met by the benefits system. Even the figure of 36% is probably an underestimate. The data in this report is drawn from records of leaseholders who have registered an “away” address with their local council (i.e. those owners who do not live in the property). However, landlords are not required to register an ‘away’ address and many do not, meaning that they appear to live in the property they in fact rent out.

The report's recommendations include mandatory covenants on all Right to Buy properties so they cannot be let through the private rented sector, a new system should be introduced whereby local authorities retain an equity stake in any property sold and that local authorities should have a ‘right not to sell’ if it is not in the community interest to do so or if they believe it would harm their housing operations.