Scots Tories warn of ‘rush’ if right-to-buy ends

NEW legislation which would abolish the right-to-buy for those living in council and housing association properties in Scotland will result in a “rush to buy” from tenants, the Tories have claimed.

The right to buy council houses will be removed from tenants under Scottish Government plans. Picture: TSPL

The Scottish Government proposes to end the right-to-buy policy, introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government. The policy gives eligible tenants the opportunity to purchase their home at a discounted price.

An estimated 534,000 tenants in Scotland currently have the right to buy their home, but the Scottish Government argues that ending the policy is necessary to protect social housing for the future.

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

But Conservative housing spokesman Alex Johnstone said the measure, which is included in the Housing (Scotland) Bill, “is all to do with political ideology”.

The Tories said 1,595 homes were bought using right-to-buy in 2013-14, and raised fears axing the policy will spark a rush from tenants to buy their homes.

Mr Johnstone said: “The Scottish Government claims the move is necessary to protect the housing stock in Scotland, but all this move will do is result in a rush to buy.

“In their determination to make a political point, denying people the right to buy their own rented home is at risk of backfiring by causing a surge in demand over the next three years.”

‘Slamming door on modest income families’

Mr Johnstone described right-to-buy as a “popular policy” which had been “the most effective single measure to enable a whole generation on modest incomes to take pride in owning their own property”.

The Tory MSP said: “Ending the right to buy for council tenants slams the door in the faces of families with modest incomes who want to own their own home and who have no other route to achieve that aspiration.

“But it’s a choice the SNP want to take away from the next generation. Right to buy must remain one of the tools to help people get on the housing ladder.”

Housing Minister Margaret Burgess said: “It is vital that we increase the supply of social housing in Scotland and that is why we want to end the right-to-buy. Measures in the Housing (Scotland) Bill will protect up to 15,500 social houses from sale over a 10-year period and safeguard social housing stock for future generations.

“With 185,000 people on waiting lists for council and housing association houses, we can no longer afford to see badly needed homes lost from the social sector.”

She said the majority of MSPs on Holyrood’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee had already backed scrapping the right-to-buy and added: “Housing is and will remain a priority for this Government and through this Bill we will continue to support improvements across the private, private rented and social sectors.”