Edinburgh Council could buy your tenement flat and rent it back - to get it fixed

FAR-REACHING proposals to buy Edinburgh tenement flats from owners to ensure essential repairs are carried out are to be progressed.
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The authority will now offer to buy back former council homes from owners, with their consent, and rent the same home back to them as a Scottish Secure Tenancy.

This “last resort” would allow residents to remain in their current home while improvement work takes place.

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More than half of the council’s 19,000 homes are in mixed tenure blocks where the council shares responsibility for the repair and maintenance of common areas with home-owners and private landlords.

Building repairs in the Grassmarket. Pic: Callum BennettsBuilding repairs in the Grassmarket. Pic: Callum Bennetts
Building repairs in the Grassmarket. Pic: Callum Bennetts

The council admits that the scale of mixed tenure repairs needed across the Capital is “substantial”.

Housing and economy convener, Cllr Kate Campbell, said: “The mixed tenure strategy is one of the biggest challenges for us, but also one of the most important things we have to get right.

“We have an obligation to our own tenants to make sure their homes are in the best possible condition, but we also want to help owners, especially those on low incomes, to be able to engage with us and work together to keep stairs across the city in the good condition.”

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In a report to the housing and economy committee, officers said: “Progressing mixed tenure repairs can be particularly challenging due to the difficulties in achieving majority agreement on repairs or on the scope of improvement works to be progressed. Even with agreement, repairs can often be delayed or cannot be progressed due to issues around paying for the work.”

The council has committed to upgrade all existing homes over the next 15 years. The council will also investigate “widespread delivery of a door entry system installation programme for mixed tenure blocks”.

The move comes after the convener of a Scottish Parliament working group on tenement maintenance said many of Scotland’s tenement properties were “at a condition cliff-edge”.

Last month, a report to councillors highlighted the number of masonry and roof incidents in Edinburgh “have steadily risen” – with an increase of 37 per cent.

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The council’s head of place management, Michael Thain, said the purchase costs will be “funded from future rent so it should be cost neutral” with some “initial costs”.

Green Cllr Claire Miller said: “Across the city there are few stairs of former council housing where there are not at least some problems of maintenance.  Particularly bad are stairs where there are absentee private landlords, many of whom are almost impossible to engage in common repairs.

“So this move is welcome. If it results in much-needed repairs getting done, and increases the number of council-owned homes and gives former owners the security of a tenancy then it is a triple win.”

A “hierarchy of assistance” has been drawn up by the council, which would prioritise the council taking a lead with repairs when the authority owns the majority of properties in a block.

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Conservative councillors called for more information into council-led repairs where the authority has an ownership interest of one third or more in the block and has the single largest ownership interest.

Conservative Cllr Jim Campbell said: “I think the point is to look at blocks where the council has a very significant ownership interest, both to support the tenants we have in those blocks and enlightened self interest. We have a lot of financial risk in those blocks, even if we don’t have a majority.”