What would Mrs Thatcher do? Boris’ plan to revive the Right to Buy scheme must be thought through properly, says VICTORIA BISCHOFF
Margaret Thatcher’s flagship Right to Buy housing policy was transformative.
It helped around two million achieve the home ownership dream, providing those families with independence, stability and a real stake in society.
But the world — and the housing market — has changed since the 1980s. So while the sentiment behind Boris Johnson’s plan to revive the scheme to help Generation Rent is to be applauded, it will not be enough on its own.
Life-changing: Margaret Thatcher’s flagship Right to Buy housing policy helped around 2.5 million achieve the homeownership dream
As we report, the simple fact is that house prices are now so overheated in large swathes of the country that most people living in housing association properties just won’t be able to afford to buy even a discounted house.
A recent trial in the Midlands saw around 1,892 tenants successfully apply to buy a home. On average, their salary was £34,666 and they received a 46 pc discount on properties valued at £137,271.
But in the South-East, a typical house costs more than £380,500; in London, it’s more than half a million pounds. Even people earning a decent salary in these areas will struggle to get a big enough mortgage at those prices. The maths just doesn’t work.
The scheme will also do nothing to help the millions who rent properties from private landlords.
With rents (never mind the general cost of living) soaring, this group of would-be-buyers are being increasingly frozen out.
There needs to be a much wider conversation — and that should begin by addressing the issue of building more affordable homes in places where people want to work and live.
Much of the house price boom has been driven by a desperate shortage of supply. Yet just this week it was reported that a controversial ruling by the environment watchdog will stop up to 100,000 homes being built.
Of course, we should not be carpeting over protected Green Belt land. But the Government must do much, much more to meet its house-building targets.
Ministers should also urgently review existing schemes, such as the Lifetime Isa. This tax‑free savings account has been a huge hit with young people saving for a home. Its appeal lies in the 25 per cent bonus, worth up to £1,000 a year.
But the rules state that buyers will not qualify for the top-up if their first home costs more than £450,000. This figure has remained the same for the past five years. It’s time it rose to reflect rocketing house prices.
Mrs T understood that homeownership is something we take great pride in here in Britain, and Boris’s government is absolutely right to try to tap into that aspirational mentality once again.
But if they are going to roll out a policy aimed at helping hard-pressed first-time buyers, it must be designed to help as many of those in need as possible.
Shift your savings
Wakey, wakey savers. It’s time to ditch those big banks once and for all. Rates are finally edging up and you can now earn around 2 per cent with a top one-year fixed deal.
No, it doesn’t come close to matching inflation. And you might feel lethargic after more than a decade of rock-bottom rates.
But with most big banks still paying a miserly 0.1 per cent on easy-access accounts, we must take action. As one consumer champion put it recently: ‘If you leave your savings with your bank, you are being robbed.’
A warm bonus
Last month, Money Mail exposed how struggling households could be forced to wait months for their promised council tax rebate.
The £150 was supposed to arrive in April to help with soaring energy bills, but some councils now say households might not get it until September.
So I was pleasantly surprised to see it land in my bank account on Tuesday. There was no accompanying email or letter, it just appeared. So keep an eye out, and let us know when you get yours.