The public supports selling off most expensive council properties

April 15, 2015

Polling by YouGov commissioned by Policy Exchange out today shows strong public support for our proposal to force councils to sell off their most expensive residential properties – which the Conservatives put in their manifesto yesterday, together with a commitment to extend the right to buy for social housing tenants living in housing association properties.

We asked the following question: “Would you support or oppose making councils sell off residential properties they own in very expensive areas when they become vacant, in order to use the money to provide more housing in cheaper areas and to help social tenants buy their own properties?”

50% per cent of people said they would support the policy (14% per cent said they would strongly support it; 36% per cent said they would tend to support it), while 32% per cent said they would oppose it (16% per cent said they would strongly oppose it; 16% per cent said they would tend to oppose it). There were 18% who said “don’t know”.

In our 2012 report Ending Expensive Social Tenancies Policy Exchange initially floated the idea of forcing councils to sell off more expensive properties that had become vacant, in order to raise the money to pay for new affordable housing. This meets an objective of increasing the number of affordable homes being built (boosting overall house building levels and supply) without cost to the taxpayer.

The policy also has an underlying principle of fairness to it. Our report argued that, in any given area, social tenants should not be given a social tenancy to an expensive home that the average person would not be able to afford to buy (or rent) on the open market. Such a situation is unfair, especially when some of those expensive social homes are worth more than £1m.

The Right to Buy policy, which Policy Exchange has long been supportive of, is about supporting homeownership and extending the home-owning democracy to people on lower incomes. Homeownership is a good thing – it gives people a stake in our society and the keys to their own home. There is no escaping that people want to own their own home, the surveys show consistently that most do. The British Social Attitudes survey shows that 86% of people aspire to own.

Homeownership has declined in recent times. So extending the Right to Buy to 1.3m housing association tenants will not only provide a fillip to faltering homeownership levels, but give these social housing tenants the opportunity to own their own home when they would otherwise be unable to.

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