A sink estate is a British council housing estate characterised by high levels of economic and social deprivation. Such estates are not always high crime areas although there is a strong correlation between crime rates and sink estates in large urban areas. Thus, the Harefield estate on the edge of Southampton was a sink estate in the last quarter of the twentieth century even though its crime rate was significantly lower than that of inner city areas. In London, however, all the no-go areas (such as the North Peckham estate before its regeneration) are sink estates.
Sink estates were largely created by the 'right to buy' system popularised by the Conservative party in the 1980s and 1990s. Council tenants in more popular areas (usually those which included larger, terraced or semi-detached properties) were far more likely to buy their property, leaving less popular areas (usually inner-city areas, those with higher crime rates or less attractive housing) under council ownership, exacerbating existing problems and further alienating the people 'abandoned' in those areas from wider society.
The origin and meaning of the term 'sink estate' is unknown. The phrase came into usage in the 1990s, and was probably a term coined by journalists.