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In 1980 the government introduced the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme, allowing many tenants of Local Authorities (or of other social housing agencies) to buy their home at a discount. The size of the discount increased according to the length of their past tenancy. Using the Longitudinal Study (LS) it is possible to establish the characteristics of those who were eligible to buy their home and to study differences between those who did, or did not, do so; in particular to know whether only tenants from the higher social classes did so. This is interesting because it can help to establish to what extent the people who availed themselves of the Right to Buy were those who might in any case have moved from social renting to owner occupation.

Two periods were studied, the ten-year periods from 1981 to 1991 and from 1991 to 2001; data shown here are mainly from 1981-1991 as this was found to be the period with the higher level of Right to Buy purchases. The LS does not include direct information on the purchase of housing but it is possible to know the LS member’s housing tenure at the beginning and end of each period, and also whether s/he is still at the same address (or, to be accurate, in the same enumeration district). LS members who were social renters at the beginning of the period and in owner occupation at the end, and who still lived at the same address, are likely to have been in a household which exercised the Right to Buy.

Tables 1a and 1b show LS members who, at the beginning of the study period (1981 or 1991) were either in owner-occupied or socially rented housing. (Those in other forms of tenure, e.g. privately rented housing, have been omitted.) The purpose is to compare propensity to change address and to change tenure between these two groups.

Table 2 selects from Table 1a only those who started the period in social housing, and shows them by age, housing tenure in 1991 and whether they had changed address. Table 3 further reduces the group to people who were in the same address at the beginning and the end of the period, analysing them by social class in 1981 and housing tenure in 1991. Of this group, those who were in owner occupation by the end of the period are assumed to have exercised the Right to Buy.

For this study we included LS members aged 25-69, whether or not they were the householder – i.e. the owner if the accommodation was owner-occupied, or the tenant if the accommodation was rented. One alternative method would be to restrict it to LS members who were householders. As currently formulated, it examines a characteristic of a household – tenure – by characteristics of an individual, i.e. age and occupational social class. But the individual may not be a typical representative of the household – for example, s/he might be young and unemployed but living with older relatives of high occupational class. Restriction to householders only would avoid any such misrepresentation.

Further analysis could examine different characteristics of these assumed buyers, for example geographical area, accommodation type or proportion of adults in employment in the household. It would also be possible to study the characteristics of those who moved out of owner occupation into socially rented housing, i.e. the reverse process.