George Osborne is offering me a £75k bribe if I buy my council house. Should I take it?

The Chancellor has an indecent proposal for leftish council tenants like me

27 July 2013

9:00 AM

27 July 2013

9:00 AM

As a council house tenant who despises the idea of right-to-buy, I have to admit that George Osborne has put me in a quandary. Like all Tories, the Chancellor likes home ownership — after all, people who own rather than rent are more likely to vote Tory. It’s hard for him to repeat Margaret Thatcher’s right-to-buy trick because it was so successful that there’s hardly any council housing left to flog. So he’s increasing the incentive. As things stand, this Tory Chancellor is making me an offer: play his game and I can have wealth that I’m unlikely to acquire otherwise. Stick to my left-wing principles, and I can expect to be left behind as my friends and neighbours move on to ‘better’ lives.

The place I live in now, on a slightly grimy estate in Tooting, south London, has been my home for over 20 years. Amazingly, it’s now valued at £150,000 — but then garages in Chelsea sell for £500,000. Osborne has increased the discount for council flats from £50,000 to £75,000. So I could buy my ridiculously overvalued flat at £75,000. Next, I could pay for it via a mortgage made artificially cheap by his quantitative easing. A 25-year mortgage at 4 per cent would cost me £400 a month, way lower than my £480 rent. My interest rate might go up, but my rent would probably go up by more. And after three years, I could sell and cash in much of the £75,000 discount he is giving me.

So should I take Osborne’s borrowed shilling? If I bought my flat, I’d be selling my principles — ones which may seem old-fashioned now, but still ones I’ve lived with all my life. When people hear that I live in a council estate, there are two normal reactions: either that I’m a freeloader, taking a flat intended for someone in desperate need, or that I have no ambition because I have not jumped on the ‘housing ladder’. Both say something about our society. The ‘freeloader’ argument hurts the most: I like to think I have a deep sense of civic responsibility. And, for better or worse, I buy into a very clear idea about housing.

I’ve always thought it’s a basic right for everyone to have a reasonable, secure and sensibly priced place to live. This was the idea behind Labour’s New Towns Act 1946 and the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, which intended council housing for the ‘general needs’ of a wide range of society. The old almshouses were intended for the poor, but the new council houses were not. Aneurin Bevan said the new estates would be places where ‘the working man, the doctor and the clergyman will live in close proximity to each other’. Council estates were never meant to be ghettos, but places where all walks of life lived side by side.

I love my estate. I love that it is a mini–village in its own right. I love the mix of white, Asian and black families who have lived there for as long as I have. I love the Poles and Somalians who have moved in more recently. I have loved watching whole families grow up under my nose. I feel very safe there and, despite living in an area of high crime, I’ve never been burgled or mugged. (I don’t even have a proper lock on my door: I can get in with a ruler if I’m locked out.) And other than a short period after university, I have never claimed housing benefit. I pay my rent and so I see no reason to move out.

This vision was not shared by Margaret Thatcher, whose right-to-buy scam saw thousands of council properties become private homes. But councils were prevented from using the money they earned from the sales to build more homes. This led to a scarcity, which has fuelled a housing boom — while lining the pockets of those lucky homeowners. A recent study by the Daily Mirror found that a third of these ex-council houses are owned by private landlords — and many are rented back to tenants who receive housing benefit. Charles Gow, the son of Thatcher’s housing minister Ian Gow, and his wife own at least 40 ex-council flats on one London estate. The free market in rental prices will have made this a licence to print money.

A new ideology has taken root — clearly expressed by George Osborne when he said that home ownership is a ‘basic human aspiration’. What does this say about the Germans — do they lack aspirations or humanity? What about the Austrians, the Danish, the Dutch, the Koreans and the French? In all of these countries, most people rent. The same goes for the millions of Britons who never set foot on the ladder. The idea of a housing ‘ladder’ will baffle people in Northern Ireland, where prices have halved since the crash. The political fetish for home ownership incubated the sub-prime crisis in America. And with Osborne’s latest ‘help to buy’ policy, it looks like he wants to repeat the experiment in Britain.

For two decades, I have regarded the politicisation of home ownership as one of the most socially divisive forces in Britain. And we can see it again, as a broke Chancellor hawks underpriced debt to people whom he wants to become Tory voters. This may lead to ruin for the nation — but not for me. If I buy my house now, I could sell with a £75,000 tax-free gain. For a fortysomething whose net worth dips below £750 in a bad month, the idea of being worth £75,000 is very tempting. There is no way that I’d ever save that much through work. Yes, I’d be selling my principles. But Osborne is offering an amazing incentive.

Many of my neighbours will do what makes financial sense for them (and, importantly, their families). About a third of my estate is now privately owned. With Osborne hawking cheap to all and sundry, this will rise. Most people who resist buying do so because their credit rating is as horrific as mine once was. But I can borrow now. The London price bubble and Osborne’s cheap mortgage bubble have coincided, offering me what is perhaps a never-to-be-repeated chance to cash in from the Tory ideology that I’ve always opposed.

So do I stick by my principles — or do I play the cards that I have been dealt while calling for a different game? Principles are worth nothing unless they are tested. That’s what’s happening to mine now, with George Osborne’s indecent proposal. And I hate to admit that I’m finding it harder than ever to resist.

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Show comments
  • John Moss

    Ah the myths appear in the first few lines. “hardly any Council housing left to flog”. No, there are 4m social homes in England. Councils still own half and half the 2m owned by Housing Associations were transferred to them from Councils. ergo, around 3m homes, potentially, have RtB eligibility. Total RtB sales to date are just over 1.5m.

    • Mowords

      I agree. To be honest, that line was edited in.

    • Troika21

      Actually you can’t buy housing owed by charities, see the CAB .

      I don’t know how many Housing Associations are charities, but I’m sure plenty are. The main one that supplies our area is part of a charity called Sanctuary Group.

  • Susan Emmett

    Hi Maurice,
    It’s worth bearing in mind that the money councils collect from Right to Buy is put to good use. There is an increasing number of local authorities (and even more housing associations) building new homes at a time of great housing shortage. Releasing capital through sales of existing stock is one way to raise funds.

    • Mowords

      I’m sure this is true Susan, but there’s also something sad about further dismantling the community that still exists on council estates. Not what it was because homes are more transitory now as people buy sell and move on, but still there. If everyone who can, buys and moves out, estates will increasingly become places where only those who can’t get credit live.

  • Felix

    Given the age of your estate, I wouldn’t count on your flat being worth what you think it will be if, as is happening all over London with old estates, it is placed under mandatory purchase order by the council which wants to sell the land to private developers in order to rebuild homes, with a bare minimum of social housing. Innumerable ex-tenants who bought under the Thatcher scheme now find they are being offered a pittance for their homes compared to market value.

    • Mowords

      Good point. My estate isn’t that old. (it’s not the one in the pic). but the £150k quoted is what a similar flat on my floor went for last month. Other than that, I completely agree.

  • Ron Fox

    As you live in the real world & not an ideal one you should look to your own interests first or suffer the consequences which will not actually benefit anyone. I own an ex council house, Plymouth council pay my tenant’s rent which gives me a profit over the mortgage I pay on it. Not my idea but I might as well benefit from the crazy system ‘cos someone’s going to.

    • Mowords

      What you’ve done makes perfect financial sense.

  • thegreekbook

    I’ve always thought it’s a basic right for everyone to have a reasonable, secure and sensibly priced place to live.

    Let me explain how that works. Myself and my wife work about 10 hours a day (each) to be expropriated by tenths of thousand of pounds, every year, so that you can enjoy your “free” “basic rights”.

    In the meantime we can’t afford to buy a house ourselves in any good area of London, have children or anything bourgeois like that. After all, for as long as we live in this country, we must accept our condition of serfdom – for we hate your condition of parasite.

    • Harriet Page

      Did you actually read this article? He quite clearly stated that he pays rent (to the tune of £480 a month) for his home. How. exactly, is he a ‘parasite’?

      And what kind of a person do you have to be to not agree that all people should have a safe, secure place to live? We live in a country where unemployment is unacceptably high, and where work doesn’t pay because the Tory ideology of pandering to big businesses at any cost stops them from mandating a reasonable living wage that would give people enough to live on, and ensure that benefits were never worth more than wages. Given this, it’s unavoidable that lots of people will be out of work or living on painfully low incomes, through no fault of their own.

      Would you really argue that those people shouldn’t be provided with safe homes? All so that you can save a few quid in taxes?

      • Mowords

        Excellent response Harriet. At no time did I say these homes should be free. I said they should be affordable. Let’s put people to work building homes and let’s get people off of waiting lists. Housing benefit costs would plummet because people would be paying reasonable rents, unemployment costs would fall because of the extra work created building the homes and personal debt would fall as people realise they no longer need to throttle themselves with debt (or tap into the bank of Mum and Dad) in order to live somewhere decent.
        It seems some people believe our big cities should have slums or townships around them for those who can’t afford to buy.

        • Adam

          It’s rather funny because the one person in UK political history who believed in ‘free housing’ the most was Margaret Thatcher but don’t expect your average tory to point out this glaringly obvious fact.

      • thegreekbook

        A few quid in taxes? What part of “tenths of thousands of pounds” didn’t you understand?

        What I care and argue about is that the state makes me poor, to pay for parasitic life styles: people who don’t work, people lazying about in the public sector on excessive salaries and inflation-proof state-guaranteed pensions bigger than the average salary, people who make as many kids as they want and dump all the responsibility – with no repercussions whatsoever – on their serfs, i.e. suckers like me.

        Too many who believe – like the author here – in all sorts of made-up “rights” which come only from taxing to the hilt the private sector.

        This is the Labour client state. You want a “safe, secure place to live”? Get off your bum and pay for it. Don’t expect me to.

        As to the “Tory ideology of pandering to the big business” – really? What did Blair do?

        • FlossyDog

          Ok, I wasn’t going to bring this up because it seems petty, but if you’re going to be rude then I’ll dive right in:

          “A few quid in taxes? What part of “tenths of thousands of pounds” didn’t you understand?”

          What part didn’t she understand? Probably the bit where you said “tenths of thousands”. Do you know what a tenth is? It’s 10%. So are you trying to say you pay hundreds of pounds? If so, why not just say that? Or do you mean tens of thousands?

          Perhaps the reason you can’t afford a nice house in London (could you pick a more expensive place, by the way?) is because you aren’t as smart as you seem to think.

          I won’t even dignify your “get off your bum and pay for it” with a proper response, I doubt you’d fully understand it. Yes, paying taxes isn’t to anyone’s liking, but national security is there so that, should you fall on hard times, you won’t die in a gutter as if it’s the medieval times. Moron.

          • thegreekbook

            Perhaps the reason you can’t afford a nice house in London (could you pick a more expensive place, by the way?) is because you aren’t as smart as you seem to think.

            Yeah, I could live in soulless suburb in the middle of nowhere and spend even more time commuting. Like, working for 10 hours and then commuting for 3, just to pay taxes so the parasites can enjoy their “rights” to housing, Sky tv and index-linked pensions! Isn’t that great?

            but national security is there so that, should you fall on hard times, you won’t die in a gutter as if it’s the medieval times.

            Should I fall on hard times, I won’t demean myself by demanding money expropriated from other people. Your “national security” (don’t you mean “social”?) doesn’t interest me, I want nothing to do with it, it’s just legalised theft. And I’m looking forward to giving it the finger.


            You surely have some crushing arguments.

    • Mowords

      Let me explain how it really works. The country has the resources to ensure housing for everyone. It simply needs a change in our priorities. You say you and your hard working wife can’t afford to buy anywhere decent in London – join the club. Do you feel it’s your right then to buy a home in Crouch End? If so, why do you baulk at everyone else having the right to live in a stable home? Homes are so expensive because there are so few of them. If we built more and provided affordable rents for all then those like you and your wife, who feel the need to move to a ‘good area’, would find it much easier to do so.

      • thegreekbook

        No, this country doesn’t have the “resources to ensure housing for everyone”. The country itself doesn’t have anything. There’s no “we” here.

        Some people have resources, some don’t. I personally don’t because we’re being expropriated of about 60% of our income to pay for “free rights” for the likes of you.

        You want the “right” to live in a nice, stable home? Pay for it yourself.

        • Mowords

          I do pay for it myself. In fact in the 23 years I’ve lived there I have virtually paid the full market price for the property. The question was whether I should also take a massive financial boost against my principles. I’m not sure if you’re deliberately not getting it.

          • thegreekbook

            You said that you’re paying rent. A subsidised rent. For a property built using money expropriated from people like me.

            You didn’t buy a property on the market, at market prices. You don’t pay rent at market prices.

            And now you’re asking if you should leech some more. Because Big Government is throwing some more of my money your way. I understand that you have some reticence deciding how much of a parasite are you.

            Some people commenting here would say – of course, the system is there, milk it as much as possible. Like most socialists, they are sociopaths.

          • cecile10

            Sorry, mate, but once you’ve paid your taxes it isn’t your money any more so stop with this ‘Government throwing my money your way’.

            And if you don’t like the deal in this country you can always try elsewhere.

          • thegreekbook

            My money – after theft – is still my money.

            It’s a rotten deal and it shouldn’t be so. This country could be a great place with less socialism (read: parasitism) going around.

            I am well aware that I cannot change it and believe me, I’m working on giving it the finger.

        • TrollingIstKrieg

          You say you lose 60% of your income? The highest tax band is set at 50% and is deducted from earnings of £150k or over.
          So it is fair to assume that you get at minimum £150k P.A. each, so if you are both in the 40% bracket not 50% as you claim…

          Salary GROSS: £150’000
          Tax Paid: £53,598.00
          NI contribution: £6,214.64
          Salary NET: (after deductions) £90,187.36

          Times that by two as you claim you are both in this tax bracket.
          That makes yearly household income of £180,374.72p minimum after Tax and NI. You can’t afford somewhere to stay or children? I can only assume that you command your finances in a fashion akin to your English and arithmetic.

          • thegreekbook

            The highest tax band is 45% + 2% NI, plus 13.8% so-called “employer’s” NI (actually levied on a different – larger – amount, and also paid by the employee). On top of this there’s 20% VAT on almost everything we buy, plus council tax, road tax, fuel duty, BBC tax etc.

            I was being charitable when I said 60%. In reality the government confiscates most of our earnings. You don’t need to make 150k+ to get most of your income confiscated by the government, to pay for an endless number of parasites.

            As to your other garbage, I won’t bother commenting.

          • TrollingIstKrieg

            Those numbers were taken directly from the HMRC by the way.

            BBC tax? I assume you mean a TV licence? I opted out of that because I never watch it, even without it you can watch BBC programs via IPlayer as long as it is not at the time of broadcast (so the TV licence revenue goes towards paying for council housing? what the exactly has that to do with anything?)

            You have to pay VAT (most food is at 0% and 20% is for mostly “luxury” items) and council tax like everyone else? Try living in Sweden or Denmark.

            Road tax and fuel duty, try getting a more economical car perhaps, rather than the penis extension you most likely drive to make up for your glaring social inadequacies.

            The fact is there are many people with families in menial jobs that work harder than you or I, doing long hours for a pittance that require social support of some kind or other. You understand that people in these jobs are a vital part of society or does your narrow world view obscure even that basic concept.

            You sound like a snivelling child, get over yourself.

          • thegreekbook

            You sound like a hysterical public sector paper-pusher waiting for your index-linked pension paid for by the suckers.

            A parasite defending the bankrupt status quo, to justify your inability and impotence in providing anything of value to society.

            Because had you provided anything of value, you’d know the value of work. You’d know how hard it is to make and save money, how hard it is to watch the government take your earnings and waste them on layabouts who want to live their entire lives in free or subsidised housing (when you can’t afford to buy your own), on paper pushers doing nothing but getting in your way, on healthcare and education unfit for purpose and serving only as employment for their staff, on gold-plated inflation-proof public sector pensions higher than the average salary (when you can’t save for your own pension) etc.

            But you have no idea. You wait for state “redistribution”. So naturally you have to bleat about how working people should be expropriated of everything they earn to pay for parasites like you.

            You have to wrap that in superior-sounding crap like “penis extensions” (stop clicking on spam email links you moron) and pretending that all items with 20% VAT are “luxuries”. Perhaps in your looney-left world.

            You disgust me. People like you, with their core warped belief in their entitlement to live solely at the expense of others, make it crystal clear for me that paying tax in the UK is something absolutely immoral.

          • TrollingIstKrieg

            I have a private pension and live in private housing, receive no benefits what so ever, left school at 15 straight into full-time employment (not public sector) for which I paid tax for 22 years up to this date, so calling me parasite (a word you use far too freely) is laughable.

            You still have not grasped the definition of the word society it seems, without it you would be picking up your own crap behind you something I bet you would regard as unworthy.

            I have travelled the world, and done pretty much everything that I want with my life and on a very modest salary at that, so unlike you I am not bitter. I am accountable unto myself and do not defer my woes onto others.

            If it pains you so much then emigrate. I did and I now live a country with much less disparity in wages, a lot less welfare, a lot less administrative non-jobs and a hell of a lot less PC nanny state bullshit.

            You have a problem? do something rather than whining behind your keyboard and spouting off hyperbole like a butt hurt Daily Mail reader. Grow a set

          • TrollingIstKrieg

            And guess what? The right to buy is most likely set up to push public sector housing (which is already probably heavily rent subsidised) into the private sector taking it out of the equation long term and although paying an initial hit is likely overall less than it would be to continue to subsidise the rents.
            You are arguing against your own belief in privitisation, do you have brain cramp?

          • thegreekbook

            I don’t read the Daily Mail. Unlike you, I don’t need some newspaper to tell me the immediate realities of my life.

            I get your definition of “society”. It ain’t about picking my rubbish. Its purpose is pretty clear.

            Your “society” would have the crap taxed out of me to subsidise the lifestyle of various Messrs Mcleods while we can’t afford the tuition fees to educate our children.

            And no worries, can’t wait to fill our P85s. We’re giving this “society” the finger later this year.

          • TrollingIstKrieg

            That is your rebuttal? really, that is it? I could not help but notice that you had nothing to say about the fact that you counter your own argument in your misguided vitriol, that is just plain fail.

          • thegreekbook

            I counter my own argument? You’re delusional.

          • gpo746

            Dear oh, Dear, If the ‘social’ housing stock was to be sold off then you will not be subsidizing cheap rents or having to pay to maintain these properties . The whole idea of RTB was to get 2nd and 3rd generation scroungers off their bums and into work to become taxpayers themselves and contribute to society . Surely, this is not a bad thing. @thegreekbook:disqus , I fail to see why you, a hard working individual cannot live comfortably on your salary. If you live in CENTRAL London then naturally you will be paying through the roof . I would suggest a change of city/country before you give yourself a heart attack . You will probably find New Zeland or the states a better option.

          • Annemoore

            I’m sorry but your argument just does not make sense. After taxes and NI contributions me and me husband earn just over £100,000 a year together not including any income from properties. With our budget we have managed to purchase 6 homes in London including the home we live in. We also have two children and want one more. In order to do this we did cut down from certain luxuries for about ten years but in the long haul we have been able to build a very stable home for our family. If you and your wife budget properly then I’m sure in a few years you will be able to afford a home or a family.

  • John Smith

    ‘ I feel very safe there and, despite living in an area of high crime, I’ve never been burgled or mugged. ‘

    Lucky ol’ you & hard luck on all those people you say you ‘love’

  • Lee Pinkerton

    Maurice. Whilst I applaud your left-wing socialist principles, they seem quaint and out of date 30 years after Thatcher’s government encouraged us all to aspire to being middle class. Its like your insisting on the superiority of the ‘beautiful game’ when everyone else has moved onto playing Rugby. It may be time to abandon those laudable principles, pick up the ball and run with it, while you’ve got the chance!

    • Mowords

      You’re probably right Lee. I do fear that I’m fighting a battle that’s already been lost. I feel like one of those legendary Japanese soldiers still guarding their little island 40 years after the war ended.

  • Paul Ryan Lee

    Problem is you have an older flat. Maintenance charges and repair charges will not be trivial. Many former tenants have been crippled with repair charges. If it was a house yes.

  • Paul Ryan Lee

    Interestingly enough I live in 60’s council flat in a West Yorkshire town. Estate agents have just put up a similar flat to mine for sale at £65k. Even without RTB discount it would be cheaper to rent from a bank than the Council at current interest rates, and they say we are subsidised?

  • Troika21

    I cannot agree with your views here, at least most of them.

    The idea that cheap, pebble-dashed housing would attract (and keep) “the working man, the doctor and the clergyman” was utopian nonsense at the time. Fortunately the social planners were defeated; a nice home is what people aspire to, not a social house.

    Nor should you support the Town and Country Planning Act. ‘Sensibly priced’ housing was driven from the UK in part by this acts introduction of greenbelts.

    Frankly though, you idea about what housing is for just seem, well, rather quaint.

    That said, I entirely agree with you about where ‘Help to Buy’ is going. This is dreadful policy making from the government.

  • cityeyrie

    Politics aside, right to buy is a swizz for both council tenants and taxpayers.

    1) Through your tenancy you already ‘own’ the right to be rehoused in something more suitable if, heaven forefend, you can’t deal with stairs, bathtubs, narrow doorjambs, etc – and it’s much more likely you’ll be able stay in your neighbourhood than if you buy and then have to sell get another place to live. I work with pensioners in Central London many of whom bought their flats and now face having to move several miles away from their community for appropriate housing, when there is a lovely council sheltered housing block in their neighbourhood they could easily have moved to if they hadn’t bought their council flats.

    2) Through your tenancy you also already have an insurance policy against your boiler breaking down and other major repairs. If you think council repairs people are bad, try talking to a home owner. At least now if a job isn’t done properly you can complain to an official who might care enough about your vote to help get it sorted. A private homeowner only has the courts and perhaps a professional body to turn to, with the expense of hiring a lawyer.

    3) How well is your estate maintained? You could be liable for sudden service charges amounting to thousands of pounds. These can also be back-dated and added to the sale price if your estate has had some communal works done recently. Talk to any council leaseholder and the first complaint is about huge charges for things like replacing the roof, windows, planned overall maintenance, environmental improvements. These are already covered in your rent as a council tenant.

    4) Don’t forget the regular service charges will be on top of your mortgage, £50+ a month. These are also going up at about the same rate as rents, if not faster in some areas.

    4) Relative security – if you have a mortgage, have a run of bad luck and can’t make payments, it’s entirely down to the lender if they negotiate or repossess. If you do need housing benefit again only your interest payments will be made if you have a mortgage, and the latest rules hedge on this as well, which is leaving many short. As a council tenant, if you fall behind with the rent the council usually do their utmost to negotiate re-payment at terms you can afford. Plus of course while interest rates seem negligible at the moment there is no guarantee they will remain so. All it takes is a sudden change of monetary policy you’ll have no control over. Remember you do not really ‘own’ your house either if you need to take a mortgage – the bank does.

    5) Taking all these points together, while £400 seems better than £480, you need to also reckon in service charges and the variety of extra insurance you’ll need to pay each month.

    It all depends on whether you want to pay rent to an elected body or to a bank.

    Rather than actually fix the banking system, Osbourne is trying to create another housing bubble with this bribe to council tenants and the Help to Buy scheme. Like all bubbles it will eventually pop one way or another. Because of your taxpayer-subsidised sale price, you may be somewhat protected from negitive equity, but not interest rises, or sudden fluctuations in the market. What if a government decided to tax all second-plus homes at such a rate that they became a less attractive investment for foreign buyers looking to stash money, or buy-to-let landlords? Unlikely during this one or even if the next is Labour, but many are clammering for this and politicians can’t ignore them forever. London’s housing market would be flooded and prices would plunge.

    And to all those who think they are subsidising council housing, council rents actually subsidise local taxes in many parts of the country – the buildings/land are generally mortgage-free by now, and rent levels more than cover maintenance and management. I’ll repeat: it is not uncommon for council rents to be used to subsidise other council services, and for a while they were even taken by central government under Labour to subsidise VAT and income taxes.

    Far better targets for taxpayer ire are: the huge amounts now being spent on housing benefit for council housing now owned by private landlords – these should be returned to councils; the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, which will be underwritten by taxpayers; this massive subsidy to people who have lucked into having an affordable place to rent they can now ‘buy’ at a knock-down price.

    The reason renting on the continent is not a cause for shame: rents and the condition of private rental properties are much more highly regulated and better maintained.

    Although billed as ’empowering’ tenants, the real effect of RTB has been to break up communities, deprive people of services like appropriate rehousing when needed, concentrate aggregate home-ownership in fewer hands, and as it has eroded the stock available, fuel the spiraling of private rents on which plentiful council housing acted as a natural break. We all suffer for this, whether you buy into the housing-ladder fetish or not.

    Like I said – right to buy is a swizz, for all taxpayers, leaseholders and especially the council tenants conned into it.

    • Mowords

      Excellent answer. Thanks for this. Lots to think about.

    • Derick Tulloch

      Paying rent to a landlord on a secure tenancy is a lot more secure than paying rent to a bank. Just saying.

  • Juanito

    By far the greatest swellings of the housing bubble took place during the Blair and Brown era, as almost every record attests; http://monevator.com/historical-uk-house-prices/ for one. Perhaps also allowed to happen for dubious political motives? Keeping the middle classes quiet while they “evolved” (ruined) the nation.

    • Vrai écossais

      The graphs are meaningless without 2 things: interest rates & resulting mortgage repayments and household salaries. House prices may have been on average £60,000 in 1989-1990 but interest rates were 14-15% and household income based on the father working and mum being at home. Now interest rates are very low and have 2 working adults, so household income is far higher.

      • cecile10

        //household income based on the father working and mum being at home//….What? In 1989? I don’t think so.

        • Vrai écossais

          One person income was the norm until the 1990’s dear. read up on it.

  • John Steel

    An excellent article. Something has gone badly wrong with housing in this country. Osborne seems determined to exacerbate the problems.

  • Gavin Griffiths

    Good thought provoking article and daring too! Entering the Tory Speccy lions den like this. That I should have 60% of my family income taken to pay for peoples rights to X Y and Z is a crazy insult. We’re all sick of it. Nobody has the right to spend this much of our money. It doesn’t really even matter what the “right” is either. Housing, dole, roads, EU, legal aid. It just needs to stop and the sympathy amongst the tax paying public simply isn’t there to subsidise flats in London. or anything for that matter. I wish it was. I want to be compassionate, I want a warm safe place for everyone, of course i do. But like millions my compassion well has run dry because its been totally abused. We witness gross government waste every day. The armies of pointless civil servants, the money thrown around like confetti on software, mistakes, bureaucracy, whole towns where nobody works. Socialism is a busted flush. It doesn’t work. It has never worked. Ever. Anywhere. From Soviet Russia, to our awful experiences here. Giving people “things” without earning them ultimately poisons them. It poisons the system. Our country is on its knees because of it.

    Over the years I’ve watched with interest how my socialist chums have
    all quietly dropped their “principals” as the cold hard brutal reality of life dawns on them. For some it’s earlier, some still cling to it by the finest thread. My 11 year old says wistfully, “why dont we get rid of money and just share.” Socialism is a dream that can never be because millions of years of human evolution has hardwired us to strive and achieve and get one over. It’s a duff principal, take the money, everybody else will.

    God, what a grump I am this morning!

    • jobellerina

      Socialist is a busted flush eh? Doesn’t work anywhere? Clearly, no-one has told the Scandinavian and other Northern European countries then.

      • johnslattery

        Yes, it’s a busted flush. Scandinavia fares well because it has very small, educated, homogenous populations, is resource-rich, and has the coattails of the whole of Europe to ride on. Which it did. Sweden grew fat on its iron ore, Norway on its oil, Denmark on top-grade agriculture. The socialism is simply an add-on, because they can afford to throw money around, and an identity thing–looks so much better than just being bog-standard sensible Germanic worker bees. If you want to cite a case of pure socialism actually delivering, you need to go back to the prewar Soviet Union, which did grow by leaps and bounds for a couple of decades. Largely under Stalin.

      • Dave Hill

        Scandinavia and the Northern European countries have no equivalent to our inbred Eton/Oxbridge mafia to hold them back.

    • Mowords

      Thanks for the reasoned response Gavin.
      While I disagree with almost all of it, I enjoyed reading it.

  • Teacher

    You have grown up. Take the money and vote Conservative.

  • Sir Trev Skint MP

    Sigh!! – What is it about socialists and aspiration? – I’ve never personally met anyone who doesn’t aspire to own their own home, let alone being offered a 75k discount!!! – This is all the proof I need to confirm that if the author of this article IS a socialist, then when they get into government they will force their disdain of home ownership on us all by turning their so-called ‘quandary’ into policy, forcing us all into disgusting state housing.

  • Dave

    FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS, get over yourself, buy the house and stop wasting so many people’s time:-)

  • yoyoegg

    A man who is not a Socialist at 20 has no heart, a man who remains a Socialist at 40 has no brain.

  • Jan Luthman

    You have a dilemma – luck has offered you a windfall lump sum
    greater than you deem fair.

    You suggest that you could salve your conscience by simply declining
    this windfall. Of what benefit would that be to anyone else?

    Why not, instead, accept your windfall, realise your profit,
    and donate it to deserving charities?

    That should really test your moral principles.

  • dodgy

    …I’ve always thought it’s a basic right for everyone to have a reasonable, secure and sensibly priced place to live….

    I’m not sure what principles you hold which imply that you shouldn’t buy your house.

    The idea that, if people can’t afford housing, it should be provided by the state, (which most people agree) doesn’t seem to be the issue. You seem to believe that there is something special about ‘Council housing’ – that houses ought to be state-owned and provided to everybody. Do you think that people who can and do buy their own property are wrong?

    If your principle is that the state should be involved in people’s housing, and should ensure that they have adequate accommodation, then consider it this way:

    The state provided taxpayer’s money to build your current house and provide you with appropriate services at a below-market price. I understand that you were happy for that process to happen. I would not be surprised to find that it had spent £75k on you during this process – it certainly spent something.

    Now the state has said “Would you like to have the money that’s going to be spent on you over the next 20 years up front?”. Essentially it’s the same bargain – the state is giving you the means to house yourself. As far as I can see, the only difference is that the state is not going to be your direct landlord – it’s still paying.

    Doesn’t meant you should take up the offer, of course. But unless you hold a specific principle saying that the state should act as a direct landlord, I can’t see that there is anything different going on.

  • Pat

    Homeowners are treated much worse than tenants in our system in several respects. If you buy the home and borrow extra to improve it then lose your job you will only get help with money towards the interest payments on the purchase and essential repairs, interest on borrowing for anything deemed as an improvement won’t qualify. The state’s interest help may be insufficient to cover the actual interest payments that you are required to pay your lender.You will have a waiting period of at least 8 weeks before any interest help is given and it will be time limited for 2 years if you are on JSA. Housing Benefit to help with rental payments is available straight away in similar circs and would continue so long as the need remained (although Bedroom Tax has eroded that protection too if you underoccupy). It’s good that you love your neighbours and seem easygoing, you don’t want to risk bringing or being on the receiving end of any civil court proceedings as a homeowner because if you have any money or cost judgements against you then a charging order can be obtained followed by an order for sale or bankruptcy if the debt is over £750 with similar procedures to force a home sale. A social tenant in similar circumstances would not usually be putting their home at risk by bringing or defending a court claim or bankruptcy. If your home becomes unsuitable, for example you have several children and it becomes overcrowded, you will find most councils will exclude you from the housing waiting list if you own the home but will give you priority to move to suitable alternative accommodation if you are a tenant.
    Don’t assume that just because others have bought and sold at a huge profit that it will be so easy for you. I found the ideal ex-local authority flat to purchase recently, others in the block had sold up until 2010 with mortgage lenders willing to lend on them but by 2013 I, and 3 experienced mortgage brokers found it impossible to find a mortgage company to lend on it so it sold well below it’s original estate agent valuation to a cash buyer who no doubt bought as an investment to rent out privately. finding cash buyers can often take a long time unless you drop the asking price significantly. Your “profit” is a myth until you realise it. I wouldn’t lose sleep over taking one more flat out of social ownership, after all it wouldn’t be available for another occupant all the while you are there and the purchase price now will make up for the council’s loss of rent on it in the future. I would lose sleep over what might go wrong in future and the risk of losing a home you love.

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  • Goat Willow

    I’m in exactly the same position right now. Do I buy the house I’ve been in for 17 years and get a massive discount, the likes of i’d never see again, or do I stick with my principles, walk away and buy a house the way most other people have to. My mind changes every minute!