Four out of 10 council homes now belong to private landlords, new research has revealed, with Milton Keynes dubbed the “right-to-buy-to-let capital” of England.

Freedom of information (FoI) requests to 111 English local authorities shows 40.2 per cent of housing stock sold by councils to then tenants are now rented out, up from 37.6 per cent in 2015 – soaring to 70.9 per cent in Milton Keynes.

With the figure forecast to rise to 50 per cent by 2026, the government aims to extend right to buy to more housing association tenants, with a regional pilot in the West Midlands set for 2018.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “More than 77,500 tenants have used right to buy to purchase their home over the last five years, helping more people own a property.

“There are restrictions on selling on a property bought under right to buy within five years, and under our reinvigorated scheme every additional home sold off must be replaced by another one, nationally.

“Councils should deliver these additional affordable homes within three years, and so far they have achieved this.”

The research by Inside Housing magazine also found that seven councils – Milton Keynes, Bolsover, Brighton & Hove, Canterbury, Cheshire West and Chester, Stevenage, and Nuneaton & Bedworth – have letting levels of more than 50 per cent among former council-owned homes.

And a 2015 survey found that 37.6 per cent of former council homes sold under the scheme now belonged to landlords.

The magazine anticipates that by 2026 half will have been taken over by private landlords.

Eamon McGoldrick, managing director of the National Federation of Almos (arm’s-length management organisations), which manage council housing on behalf of local authorities, believes the true figure could be higher as some leaseholders don’t inform the council that they’re subletting.