The privatisation of council housing: Stock transfer and the struggle for accountable housing

Stewart Smyth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


A central element in the privatization of council housing has been the development of stock transfer policy. A variety of perspectives on this process have been explored including the impact on accountability relations; however, the tenants’ experience is almost completely absent from this literature. The paper develops a case study that draws on the experience of the tenants involved in a stock transfer. In the process stock transfers, and related accountability relations, are shown to be contested with tenant-led campaigns challenging this neoliberal inspired policy. The case study illustrates the power and financial resource asymmetries in transfer campaigns with a range of anti-democratic tactics employed by those pursuing the transfer. On the basis of a critique of neoliberalism, the stock transfer process is seen as an attack on the previous democratic control of council housing, which is replaced with ‘governance by experts and elites’ and private sector inspired corporate governance forms of accountability. Thus the paper seeks to answer two questions; how democratic is the transfer process and what are the long-term implications for democratic accountability in the social housing sector.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-56
Number of pages20
JournalCritical Social Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


  • accountability
  • neoliberalism
  • privatization
  • stock transfer
  • tenants’ movement


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