Council to snap up homes it lost under ‘right to buy’

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HUNDREDS of former council houses purchased under right-to-buy laws could now be bought back to tackle the demand for affordable housing in the Lothians.

East Lothian Council is considering the move which would see it aim to buy as many as 200 of its former properties over the next six months.

It will only target old local authority properties that are being advertised for sale and will only pay the district valuer’s estimation.

It comes as some ex-council properties struggle to sell on the open market.

A council spokesman said: “The advantage for the council in purchasing such houses is that they will be of similar house styles and construction to other properties already maintained by the council, and could be available for new tenants in a matter of months from the purchase date.

“Additionally, these purchases will be protected from the ‘right to buy’ through new government legislation introduced this year. This means that these houses will remain in the ownership of the council, which will help bolster housing supply which in turn helps the council address the significant demand for affordable housing in East Lothian.

“Robust procedures are being put in place to make sure these purchases will be of the right type, location and price to ensure good value in helping to address the need to increase the supply of affordable housing.”

As well as increasing the number of council houses available for rent, it is hoped the move will boost the local property market.

Gavin Corbett, policy manager at Shelter Scotland, welcomed the move – but said it should never have been necessary.

He said: “East Lothian is desperately short of affordable homes to rent and this will help bring homes within the reach of people on lower incomes.

“In many cases existing homes can be bought more cheaply and certainly more quickly than building new.

“However, some of the homes bought back in this way will have been sold at a massive discount in the first place. So it shows how short-sighted the ‘right to buy’ policy was in the first place.”

Neither Edinburgh nor West Lothian Council said it was considering a similar scheme.

Councillor Jim Muirhead, Midlothian Council cabinet member for housing and community safety, said they had bought back council homes in the past but were currently concentrating on delivering new-build properties.

A report is set to be presented to East Lothian Council next year on the progress of the initiative, detailing how many properties have been bought and how much has been spent.