Briefing Note (BN162)

The right to buy public housing in Britain: a welfare analysis

Date: 17 February 2015
Publisher: Institute for Fiscal Studies
ISBN: 978-1-909463-77-6
JEL classification: I38, R38
DOI: 10.1920/BN.IFS.2015.00162

This briefing note examines the Right to Buy policy in the United Kingdom, by which council tenants could buy their council properties at a discounted price, and the subsequent extension of the policy to most forms of social housing. This policy constituted the largest source of privatisation revenue to HM Treasury, especially in the 1980s, exceeding the revenues from all other individual privatisations. It was responsible for one of the biggest transformations of housing tenure of households in the UK’s history. The briefing note shows how the Right to Buy policy might be evaluated using economic principles; a formal theoretical economic model of housing tenure choices in the presence of Right to Buy is contained in an associated working paper published by IFS.