Andy Mayer over at the Orange Booker stronghold that is Liberal Vision doesn’t mince his words, writing today that “Simon Hughes is wrong on right to buy“. Mayer reminds us that before Margaret Thatcher liberated a million working class families by putting them onto the property ladder with her populist “Right to Buy” policies in the 1980s, it was a Liberal Party policy going back to the 1950 manifesto:
“The main plan is, first to get people decent living conditions and then to give them the chance to become owner-occupiers, even in Council houses and flats.”
Simon Hughes’s Southwark constituency is itself a victim of public-private apartheid in housing, there are a few private luxury developments and the most council estate housing in the country. State-sector housing should not be ever more concentrated by expansion, instead mixed communities with affordable housing, ex-council houses and private owner occupied homes alongside would prevent ghettoes developing.
As people get on and get older it is natural that they will sell their inner-city, ex-council owned home to somebody starting out on the property ladder and probably buy something in the suburbs before, they may hope, retiring to a smaller bungalow in the country. That boring, mundane progression is the heartfelt ambition of millions of ordinary people.
To deny people the ‘right to buy’, or as some councils do now, deliberately price people out of buying by offering minimal discounts of as little as 5%, is illiberal and crushes the ambitions of so many to get on in life. Owning your own home is great thing, it changes your whole outlook on life and strengthens society. Hughes is wrong to condemn people to being permanently imprisoned in the state sector.