Scottish council homes sold for £2bn profit under Right to Buy



Former council homes in Scotland which were purchased under the Right to Buy (RtB) policy made around £2 billion in profit for their owners during the last decade-and-a-half of the policy.

In one of the widest-ranging investigations into the policy, the BBC’s Shared Data Unit obtained and analysed data from HM Land Registry, the Registers of Scotland and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. Data for 92,000 sales was published in Freedom of Information responses.

Of the 39,000 sales analysed in Scotland since the turn of the millennium, homeowners made £2.3bn in profit or £2.05bn in real terms. Some one in 50 sellers made a real terms loss.

The average time someone kept their RtB home before selling it on was about five years and eight months.

One social housing property in Glasgow was bought for £12,000 under Right to Buy in 2000, before being sold six years later for £750,000 – a real-terms profit of £736,040.

Seventeen people bought and sold their RtB house within one week, while 24 sold within a fortnight. Three people did so on the same day with one making £60,700 through the sale.

The average profit earned from the purchase of a former council property in Scotland and its eventual resale was £25 per day.

A total of 53,175 Scots remained in the same home they had bought under RtB as of April 2018, while 10,860 people were found to have transferred their property for reasons other than purely money.

Introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1980, the Right to Buy gave tenants of councils and some housing associations the right to purchase their home at a large discount, which increased the longer they had lived there.

While popular with those who directly benefited, the policy has since been blamed as a contributing factor to the housing crisis gripping parts of the UK. Many of the properties, which were originally built by local authorities to offer good quality housing to working families have since passed into the hands of buy-to-let landlords.

Around 500,000 homes were sold under RtB in Scotland since the policy was introduced in 1980. It was scrapped by SNP ministers in 2016, with the devolved Welsh Government following suit this year.

The Chartered Institute of Housing is now calling for a full suspension of RtB in England.

A spokesman said: “We support the principle of helping tenants move into home ownership if that’s what they want, but it cannot be at the expense of other people in need.”

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said that by ending the scheme, around 15,500 homes available for social rent had been protected over a ten-year period.

He added: “This will benefit current and future tenants, the wider community, and support our efforts to increase the supply of affordable homes for Scotland, which is the sustainable, long-term solution to addressing housing affordability. Nearly 82,100 homes have been delivered since 2007 and we are committed to delivering at least 50,000 affordable homes by 2021, backed by over £3bn investment during the lifetime of this Parliament.

“Many people aspire to own their home, so alongside keeping homes available for rent, we also have shared equity schemes to help people on low to moderate incomes buy their own property.”