Ending right-to-buy is a positive step

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MICHAEL Kelly’s article ­(Perspective, 4 July) is by far the best I have read on social housing.

When I was working in a large housing estate in ­Glasgow houses were being demolished only 15 years after they were built as they could not be let. The housing department was by far the most unpopular department of the council. I was told that housing department staff hated working at the public counter.

It was good to see the pride that the new owners took in their former council homes but sadly, in view of the acute shortage of social housing stock, the decision of the SNP to remove the right of ­council house tenants to buy may well be right. ­Subsidised social housing should be for those in need and not for families who can afford to rent or buy in the private ­sector. 

There is an urgent need to build more smaller houses as the days of large family units are gone and the need is for one or two occupant homes.

I understand that building houses is labour intensive so a house building programme could help to reduce unemployment. 

Hugh Mackenzie 

Bonnethill Road

Pitlochry, Perth and Kinross 

DID the right to buy a ­council house at a discount change the face of Scotland and the profile of the public ­sector housing stock? Michael ­Kelly’s account of the ­benefits of home ownership in terms of increased pride and responsibility was interesting enough (Perspective, 4 July). But he failed to point out some of the burdens faced by well-intentioned local authorities over the past 30 years.

Councils were in theory relieved of the part of the burden of maintaining stock once it was sold. But successive governments could have done more to help improve the houses councils retained.

In the 1990s the then ­Conservative government decreed that councils could keep only part of the money raised from capital receipts i.e. from sale of houses. That policy was retained for a long time by the Labour government when Gordon Brown was Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Blair/Brown government was anxious to promote transfer of large swathes of housing to non-profit associations. If tenants voted for transfer the ­housing debt charges accumulated over decades would be cancelled. It was never explained satisfactorily why government was prepared to cancel debt for a housing association but not for the local authority itself.

The councils were deprived of money for investment in the housing stock.

Meanwhile many social problems continued.

The right-to-buy did not prevent the rise of disturbing levels of antisocial behaviour in the first decade of this century. This affected both homeowners and tenants.

In the main these two groups now co-exist positively. Their fortunes would have been improved if housing investment policy in the last three decades had been more positive.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court

Glenrothes, Fife

I WELCOME the move by the Scottish Government to scrap the “right to buy” from 2016 (your report, 4 July).

This is a policy that has ­effectively run its course and the time has come to instead focus on increasing the ­supply of affordable housing while ensuring those who are financially able to buy their home can do so in a ­sustainable fashion.

Right-to-buy has dramatically reduced the stock of homes available for ­social rent, resulting in ever-lengthening housing waiting lists and rising levels of homelessness.

Providing generous discounts to tenants who wished to buy their homes also saddled social landlords with increasing levels of debt, putting a further squeeze on already tight finances.

Though much more work needs to be done to address Scotland’s acute shortage of social housing, ending this policy is a positive step in the right direction.

Keith Anderson

Chief executive, Port of Leith Housing Association

Leith, Edinburgh

DAVE Watson is right to identify that improving the availability and quality of social housing will bring vast improvements to ­people across Scotland and that the Scottish Government can make the right choices to make this a reality.

Abolishing outdated ­policies such as the right-to-buy are welcome but must go hand-in-hand with sustained investment in housing.

Housing has consistently lost out to roads and transport in SNP Finance Secretary John Swinney’s budgets, so the first thing the Scottish Government can do is promise no more housing cuts.

But that isn’t enough to help the 157,000 households on council waiting lists across Scotland.

We need a long-term, ­sustainable social-house building programme that guarantees long-term funding for councils and housing associations with realistic grant levels that can deliver the homes we need.

Only if Scotland’s politicians act can we end our housing crisis for good.

Graeme Brown

Director, Shelter Scotland

South Charlotte Street