Time to praise a rare sighting of good government from this government. National’s policy allowing state house tenants to buy “their” homes from September is almost all good. As I said back when this idea was first floated:
That's very good. That's very, very good. When Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives allowed sitting council house tenants to buy at a heavy discount the houses in which they lived it was enormously popular (indeed, her "right-to-buy housing revolution" as it was dubbed was the first enormously popular thing her Conservative Government had done) and enormously successful, and there's no reason it wouldn't be both successful and popular here.
In the UK after introduction of Thatcher's 1980 Housing Act, home ownership grew from 55 % of the population in 1980 to 64 % in 1987; by the time Margaret Thatcher left office in 1990 it was 67 %. That's a huge jump, and it inspired a huge change in fortunes, and in expectations.
With "right-to-buy" Thatcher wanted to create a social revolution, and she did. By 1995 2.1 million working class tenants had become members of the "property-owning democracy," changing Britain and these people's lives for the better. This is one thing I'm very pleased that the Nats have learned from the Tories (albeit twenty-seven years late), and very pleased to see Key's Pink Tories even talking about privatisation . . . any privatisation at all.
Sadly, it’s not all good.
There was no suggestion at all that the houses could be bought at a hefty discount, which is what helped make Thatcher’s scheme so successful. Further, the announcement from housing minister Phil Heatley included news of “a boost” for first-home buyers – i.e., an increase in government-subsidised (i.e., taxpayer-funded) mortgages for first-home buyers that will only help lift the price of starter homes.
And finally, it was accompanied by news that the money earned from these state house sales will be used to build even more state houses. Which rather misses the whole point, don’t you think?
UPDATE 1: There’s a good debate on this going on at Cactus’s place.
UPDATE 2: Lindsay Mitchell calls it “Sleight of hand socialism.”