The Guardian view on social housing: time to fight for affordable rents | Editorial

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Margaret Thatcher promised a property-owning democracy. She created a nation of private landlords

The Guardian launches its Christmas appeal on Saturday. This year it is on behalf of charities that support destitute people who are seeking asylum, and the young homeless. The reasons for their plight are often complex but the headline explanation is simple: social housing is scarce and getting scarcer; rents in the private sector are rising; and housing benefit is falling.

On Friday the specialist journal Inside Housing published research that showed a new and significant factor behind the sharp rise in the numbers relying on emergency support. The right to buy, first introduced in 1980, already abandoned in Scotland and soon in Wales, was successfully reinvigorated in England by David Cameron five years ago. It has been a boon to the buy-to-let market and a curse on councils that find themselves renting them back at hugely inflated cost. Soaring house values have turned what should be a place to live into a golden asset. Former council properties have been snapped up by private landlords. In the most prosperous areas, up to 70% of former council homes are now privately let. Private rents out of London average over £200 a week while council rents are nearer £90 a week.

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#renting property
#housing market
#local politics
#local government
#social housing
#buying to let
#society
#david cameron
#guardian and observer charity appeal 2017