If you cast your mind back to the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher, then leader of the Conservative party, introduced the right to buy scheme, this had a monumental impact upon homeownership across the UK. Not only were council tenants given the opportunity to acquire their property but, depending upon how long they had lived there, they were also offered a discount to the then market price.
Over the last 30 years we have seen a dramatic fall in the number of council properties up-and-down the UK amid a housing crisis which has seen first-time buyers cut adrift of the market. However, there are signs that council policies are changing although this is likely to cause arguments across the country!
Councils offer to buy back ex-council properties
It is emerging that there are a number of new schemes underway which will see councils up and down the UK looking to buy back ex-council properties at what we can only assume would be a market price. While there is evidence to suggest that plans have already been implemented in some areas of London it is perhaps Scotland which is attracting the most attention at this moment in time.
The turn of the year saw a number of schemes across Scotland highlighted in the press attracting very different comments and conclusions.
Is this a short-term fix?
When you bear in mind the increase in overall property prices across the UK between the 1980s and today, we can only imagine the massive additional cost to the councils. While there is obviously a need to address the short to medium term housing prices across the UK, is this the only real option in the short term?
Unfortunately, when you bear in mind the ever-growing rents associated with private landlords it does seem as if many councils across the UK are being forced into a corner. While there are ongoing long-term council house rebuilding programmes these will take many years to kick in during which time the housing crisis can only get worse. At a time when council budgets are under serious pressure it is difficult to see where the cash to fund such acquisitions will come from – although at the end of the day it will be taxpayers who will eventually foot the bill.
Is this a step in the right direction?
Whether you agree with this move by councils up and down the UK it is a step in the right direction and in many cases it will pick up the slack which has emerged of late in the UK property market. While it would be unfair to suggest the UK property market is in a downtrend it is at best treading water at the moment although experts believe that property prices will move higher overall during 2015. It will be interesting to see how many properties councils buyback across the UK because in theory they could start to have a growing impact upon the UK property market and especially the supply/demand ratio.
Whether or not you agree with councils buying back ex-council properties at current market values, against discounted sale prices from the 1980s, at least somebody is starting to make inroads into the UK wide housing crisis. Funding will be an issue, especially in these times of austerity, and it will be interesting to see how local authorities across the UK manage to balance their books.