Committee calls for faster end to right-to-buy

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THE Scottish Government is being urged to speed up plans to abolish the right-to-buy for tenants living in council and housing association properties.

Members of a Holyrood committee have backed proposals to end the right-to-buy - which was introduced by Margaret Thatcher.

But MSPs on the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee said the three-year timescale proposed by ministers is too long, and instead suggested the right-to-buy should be axed within a year of the legislation gaining Royal Assent.

The policy, which was first introduced in the 1980s, gives eligible tenants the opportunity to purchase their home at a discounted price.

More than 455,000 tenants have become homeowners as a result, with the Scottish Government estimating that by ending the right-to-buy about 15,500 properties could be kept in the social rented sector over a 10-year period.

An estimated 534,000 tenants in Scotland currently have the right to buy their home.

While the committee said ending the policy would impact on them, the majority of MSPs backed the move, arguing it would “bring significant benefits to the social housing sector” - though Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone did not agree with this.

The committee accepted the Government wanted to give “reasonable notice” that the right was being abolished, but the majority said the three-year period was “excessive”.

Instead they called on ministers to consider reducing this to one year from when the Housing (Scotland) Bill - which is going through Holyrood - is granted Royal Assent.

Committee convener Maureen Watt said: “The majority of the committee agrees that social housing should no longer be available for tenants to buy. We heard, and agreed with, strong evidence that the policy has had its day and that ending the right-to-buy will help stop affordable rented housing being lost from the social housing sector.

“Having taken that decision, we think the proposed three-year timescale to abolish right-to-buy is too long. We feel a notice period of one year is adequate to allow people who have a right to buy to decide if this is the right option for them.”

The Bill also sets out a number of changes to the social and private rented housing sectors, which the committee backed, including measures to help councils and housing associations deal with anti-social behaviour and the introduction of a registration scheme for letting agents.

But the committee has made some recommendations on how the legislation could be improved.

MSPs want the Bill to be amended so that private rented homes must undergo electrical safety checks every five years by a registered electrician.

They also want mains operated smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms to be mandatory in properties in the private rental sector.

Ms Watt said: “There is much in this Bill that the committee supports and believes will help those who rent across the different sectors. However, we have also put forward recommendations to Parliament to further improve the Bill, should Parliament agree with us that it should continue to progress.

“For example, our recommendations on mandatory mains smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms we believe would greatly improve safety for all tenants in private rented housing.”


• Leaders: Right-to-buy