Written by Morgan Brobyn. Morgan has an undergraduate degree in BSc Econ International Politics and MA European Studies from Maastricht University. He is the former Vote Leave Assistant Director for Wales and currently works as a public affairs professional.
The hypocrisy of the left manifests itself in many ways, most recently in Welsh Labour’s call to end the right-to-buy. Welsh Labour constantly profess that at the heart of their ideology is to provide opportunity, regardless of race, gender, or social identity. The right-to-buy has provided families and individuals from socially excluded and economically deprived backgrounds, who usually have very little or no liquid assets to fall back on, the opportunity to own their own home. The right-to-buy is an affordable method that has provided tens of thousands of people in Wales with the financial security that for most only comes with owning a home. That’s over 139,000 privately owned homes since the 1980s, in Wales alone. Not only does the right-to-buy provide those who are not a position to own a home with the opportunity to do so, empowering them financially, it also empowers the communities in which they live.
When someone owns a home, they have a potentially life-long stake in that property, meaning they will have a stronger stake in the village, town or city in which they live. This provides them with the security they need to start a family, and helping them enormously to work locally and contribute to the local economy. The community also becomes less transient as more people become almost permanent residents, fostering a greater sense of community and social cohesion. Home ownership is one of the greatest economic and social catalysts there could possibly be in any advanced society, despite this the Welsh Labour Government wish to push this goal out of site for much of those who they claim to support. Another element of hypocrisy, is that those who object to the right-to-buy often do so from the very comfortable position of already owning their own homes. It would be interesting to know how many of the Welsh Assembly Members, or their families or friends, benefited from the right-to-buy over the years, since it was introduced by Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party in the Housing Act 1980.
The answer to the housing crisis is far from curbing the ability of many from owning their own home, by abolishing the right-to-buy; the answer lies in extending or reforming the right-to-buy. For example, Local Authorities may be more willing to consider voluntary sales of social housing stock if the rules on sales receipts were more flexible, the Welsh Government could also create a requirement to place a proportion of receipts into a ‘Welsh fund’, to compensate the potential loss of housing revenue from the rental income. Regardless of the local government budget, it will continue to be the case that receipts from sales are an important source of investment funds, the Welsh Government is on track to decimate local Government funding even further by following an economically illiterate course in regards to the right-to-buy. The UK Government has proposed a voluntary right-to-buy scheme to housing associations in England. Originally this policy under Osborne was going to be a compulsory scheme on social housing providers. However, I believe a system where housing associations may opt-in will help strike an appropriate balance. It also offers housing associations that opt in with an opportunity to reinvest a percentage of the sales in upgrading and building new stock, because quality is just as important as quantity.
There is no silver bullet to solve the housing crisis in the UK, and Wales feels this crisis through its own unique prism. We need a variety of tools available to us, but removing the right-to-buy from what is actually a disproportionately large number people in comparison to other regions of the UK would be disastrous in the long term for Wales.