Right to Rent - not Right to Buy

A look at how we can protect at-risk families and increase social housing

James Caspell

Nearly seven out of 10 homes in the UK are owner-occupied. Almost 30,000 homes were repossessed in 2013 alone, with over one in every 100 mortgaged homes in arrears of at least 2.5 per cent of the value of the loan. Families - particularly those with children - are more likely to be impacted by mortgage repossession, having indeterminable impacts on the education, health and employment prospects of the whole household. Moreover, the cost to local authorities to house homeless families has risen to over ?500 million per year.

The Green Party proposes that people facing severe difficulties with paying their mortgage and facing repossession should have a 'Right to Rent' their existing home as council housing - a policy analogous but opposite to 'Right to Buy'.

Homeowners unable to meet their mortgage payments and under threat of repossession would have a right to transfer ownership to the council, at less than market value, in exchange for the right to remain in the home and pay rent as council tenants.

There would be limits on the size and value of houses covered by this policy, and it would only apply to houses owned and occupied by a family or individual.

The local authority would be obliged to pay the remainder of the mortgage off, in return for taking full ownership of the property, although the cost would be covered by government grants or public loans. The local authority would benefit through inheriting outstanding equity, the increasing value of property, and future rental income.

Banks would get a guaranteed return on their capital, with interest and early release charges payable as per the terms of the original loan. The transfer of remaining, or at least substantial amounts of, equity to the local authority removes any incentive for a household to default on their mortgage simply to benefit from social rent.

Whereas Right to Buy has decimated the quantity and quality of social housing, Right to Rent would provide a safety net for thousands of families struggling with ownership - and guarantee that they can keep their own roof over their heads.