Labour could force landlords to sell homes to tenants at ‘reasonable’ prices in bid to end buy-to-let property profiteering

Private tenants could pay less than market rate under policy aimed at reversing buy-to-let boom that has left millions unable to get foot on housing ladder

Chris Baynes
Monday 02 September 2019 14:30 BST
Labour could force landlords to sell homes to tenants at ‘reasonable’ prices in bid to end buy-to-let property profiteering

A Labour government would look to bring in a radical “right-to-buy” scheme to help millions of private tenants in the UK buy their rented homes for a “reasonable” price, the shadow chancellor has said.

John McDonnell said he wanted to tackle the “burgeoning buy-to-let market” and problem landlords who do not maintain their properties.

The scheme, which could bring a day of reckoning for many of Britain’s 2.6 million landlords, is a twist on Margaret Thatcher’s policy of allowing council tenants to buy their homes in the 1980s – a move critics say helped cause the current housing crisis by drastically reducing the number of local authority properties.

Setting out loose guidelines for a Labour policy first suggested by Jeremy Corbyn during his 2015 party leadership bid, Mr McDonnell said the price paid by tenants who wanted to buy their home would not necessarily be the market price.

“You’d want to establish what is a reasonable price, you can establish that and then that becomes the right to buy,” he told the Financial Times. “You [the government] set the criteria. I don’t think it’s complicated.”

Mr McDonnell said the plan would be a way of redressing problems such as landlords refusing to invest in their properties while making a “fast buck” at the cost of their tenants and the community.

“We’ve got a large number of landlords who are not maintaining these properties and are causing overcrowding and [other] problems,” he added.

The National Landlords Association accused Labour of threatening to “punish” all landlords “for the sins of the few”.

Chris Norris, the organisation’s director of policy and practice, said: “To suggest that private landlords should be selling their properties to their tenants at a below market rate arbitrarily set by politicians is ludicrous. Landlords had to pay market rates themselves. It’s only right that, if and when they decide to sell it, they can do so at market rates.

“If Labour does indeed wish to fix the housing crisis, they should focus on encouraging the government to build more social housing, which is what the housing sector is lacking.”

The shadow chancellor has also previously announced plans for “inclusive ownership funds” under which every company with more than 250 employees would be required to transfer 10 per cent of their shares to their staff.

According to analysis by the Financial Times and law firm Clifford Chance, the scheme would mean £300bn worth of shares in 7,000 large companies would be handed to workers in one of the largest ever transfers of wealth from the private sector by a government in a western democracy.

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