Abolish right-to-buy schemes that are depleting social stock: McCann

The social housing stock in Derry is being depleted by landlords acquiring multiple properties from former housing association tenants who have bought under market rates through state-sponsored right-to-buy schemes, according to People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann.

Mr McCann claimed private landlords are making a fortune through the practice and called for the Department of Communities to abolish its house sales schemes.

“If you look across the water and at experience anywhere, including here, you will discover that a considerable percentage of houses sold under right-to-buy schemes end up not in the hands of the people who were living in the house in the first place but in the hands of buy-to-rent landlords,” said Mr McCann.

The Foyle MLA was speaking during a debate on a Private Members’ Motion tabled by Sinn Féin MLA Fra McCann, which called for the suspension of house sales schemes until a full review of the long-term impact on the social housing stock was carried out.

He claimed private landlords in Derry were buying buy-to-rent properties from former social housing tenants at knock-down prices and making a fortune.

“I can tell you that, where I come from, it is not unusual for individuals to own three, four, five and six houses that they rent out and they make a fortune, and they buy them from the people who bought them,” he said.

“If you buy your own house, you buy it at less than market value, and then there is an opportunity in one or two years’ time to sell it and make a profit.

“That is happening over and over again, and it is depleting not increasing the stock of social housing,” he added.

Mr McCann said: “More than 40 years ago, shortage of housing, more than any other factor, caused a general crisis in this society, yet what are we doing after all that time?

“We are flogging off social housing, and, at the same time, we are strangling the Housing Executive, which was created by mass pressure as a result of the crisis that I just mentioned from about 40 years ago.”

He called for the Housing Executive to be brought back fully into the public sector and allowed to borrow money to raise stock.

Housing Minister Paul Givan said: “It is not as simple as Mr Eamonn McCann’s suggestion for the Housing Executive.

“If only it were as easy as that, but it is not when you have to deal with the real world.”