Jan 20 2010 by Jonathan Geddes, Rutherglen Reformer
COUNCIL chiefs this week welcomed proposals that will stop new council house and housing association tenants from having the right to buy their homes.
The SNP Government last week announced the scheme in their latest housing bill.
Ministers claim the legislation will improve the supply and quality of housing in Scotland and cut by 18,000 the number of tenants who will be eligible to buy their homes over the next decade.
However, even if the bill is approved, it will at first cover only a small number of houses in South Lanarkshire.
At the moment, the council have plans to provide for rent 20 new houses in Fernhill, and 61 in East Kilbride.
‘Right to Buy’ was one of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s flagship policies during the early 1980s.
She thought that people living in council houses should be given the chance to purchase their own home.
It proved popular but has over the years depleted stocks of public housing, leading to an acute shortage of affordable accommodation in some areas of the country.
In South Lanarkshire, there are currently 25,616 lettable properties.
Since the start of the millennium 8652 council homes have been sold under ‘right to buy’.
Housing Minister Alex Neil said: “We are investing a record £1½ billion in affordable housing, including a new generation of council housing.
“These far reaching reforms will safeguard that investment for future generations.
“The modernisation of regulation will put the interests of tenants and homeless people at the heart of housing regulation and encourage landlords to improve the services that they provide for their customers.”
A South Lanarkshire Council spokesman said: “We welcome the proposals, which will mean that houses that would otherwise have been sold will remain available for those on the waiting list.
“In particular, the proposals mean that new housing built or acquired by the council cannot be sold.
“Unfortunately, in real terms it will not make a significant impact upon the shortage of housing that exists in parts of South Lanarkshire and elsewhere across Scotland.”
There are at present, 18,942 people on the South Lanarkshire housing waiting list.
Council leader Eddie McAvoy said: “At the moment, there is a shortage of houses but what is the point of us borrowing money to build houses that are sold off with a few years.”
But Rutherglen MSP James Kelly said: “The right to buy is no longer an issue because Labour had already taken decisive action to ensure that councils can set their own policies on the right to buy according to local need.
“What Scotland needs right now is more affordable homes. The SNP need to address the 'black hole' that exists in the housing budget and provide proper support to housing associations and councils to get house building projects off the ground.”
Around one in four Scottish households live in social housing.