Right to buy has cost London’s communities dearly | Letter

Right to buy has cost London’s communities dearly | Letter thumbnail

Aditya Chakrabortty makes many valid points, but does not mention right to buy, a policy introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1980 to break up council estates (Disappearing schools, families forced out – and we call this progress, 13 April).

Since 1850, philanthropic organisations and councils have built decent housing close to the centre of London for people who work in the low-paid jobs that keep the metropolis functioning – cleaning and caring, maintaining essential services, driving buses and trains, delivering post etc. They replaced Victorian slums, housed first world war heroes, repopulated second world war bomb sites and met the needs of London’s homeless people. Encouraging tenants to buy these precious assets at a huge discount was, and remains, popular – but at a terrible cost to London’s communities.

Local authorities have not been allowed to use the receipts to replace their lost stock, and far too little public or private housing has been built in recent decades to meet the needs of any of London’s young families. About 40% of the houses and flats on London estates that were bought under right to buy are now privately rented (not to families in the greatest housing need), and larger houses built by councils to accommodate big families have been converted into bedsits, let individually at excessive rents to single people.

New central developments are for the wealthy (assuming they are lived in at all) and local councils come under relentless pressure to reduce their requirements for small quotas of “affordable” housing in new private developments. Ending the right to buy, and building new housing for ordinary Londoners, must now be our top political priorities.

Liz du Parcq

London