Tory Bid To Preserve Right-To-Buy

25 June 2014, 06:26 | Updated: 25 June 2014, 06:28

The Tories will today make a last ditch attempt to preserve the right-to-buy for hundreds of thousands of tenants living in council and housing association homes.

MSPs at Holyrood are expected to pass new legislation which will end the right, which was first introduced by Margaret Thatcher.

An estimated 534,000 tenants in Scotland currently have the right to buy their home, but the Scottish Government argues ending the policy could keep about 15,500 properties in the social rented sector over a 10-year period.

But Conservative housing spokesman Alex Johnstone said scrapping the policy "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''.

He added: "This move by the SNP is motivated by nothing more than political dogma and is nothing to do with protecting the housing stock.

"Right-to-buy has been the most effective single measure to enable a whole generation on modest incomes to take pride in owning their own property.

"But, despite being an important tool to help people get on the housing ladder, it's a choice the SNP want to take away from the next generation.''

Housing Minister Margaret Burgess has already told Holyrood: ''With 185,000 people on waiting lists for council and housing association houses, we can no longer afford to see the social sector lose out on badly needed homes.''

She said the Housing (Scotland) Bill would introduce a "package of measures which will help improve housing in the social, private rented and owner-occupied sectors''.

Ms Burgess added: "By ending right-to-buy in two years we will protect up to 15,500 social houses from sale over a 10-year period and safeguard social housing stock for future generations.''

Meanwhile Andy Young of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) said the policy, which was introduced in the 1980s, had "no place in 21st century Scotland''.

He claimed right-to-buy had been "beneficial to a relatively small number of individuals, but clearly a loss to the greater public good'', adding that "500,000 social rented homes have been lost in the 35 years of this policy in Scotland, very often the better stock in the more popular areas''.

Labour will attempt to use the Bill to limit rent reviews, so these can only take place once a year, and to introduce a cap on rent increases.

Infrastructure spokesman James Kelly said: "It is time for the Housing Minister to stand up for Scotland's renting families by supporting Scottish Labour amendments to the Housing Bill.

"Scottish Labour want to limit rent reviews to once a year and cap the amount rents can increase by. Rents are rising far above inflation in Scotland and in some parts of the country are rising by nearly 20% a year.

"We need to stop tenants being ripped off by unscrupulous landlords. Almost half of private renters in Scotland are families with children, and the number of households in poverty has doubled in the last decade to over 100,000.''

He added: "The Scottish Government's own Expert Welfare Group has made the case for capping rent increases, the Housing Minister needs to listen to them, to Scottish Labour and to families across Scotland who want fairer rents.''

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: "Greens are clear that the growing size of the private rented sector means that we must ensure it is an affordable, well-managed housing option which meets a social need instead of only serving the interests of investors and other businesses.''

Kathleen Gell, convener of the Council of Letting Agents warned proposals to bring in rent control could deter landlords at a time when there was a "greater need than ever for new housing stock to be brought into the sector''.

She insisted: "In a time of increasing costs and regulation on the letting industry there is no evidence that rent controls are desirable or necessary.

"There are over 300,000 letting agents and landlords in Scotland and the sector is growing. While we overwhelmingly support the Housing Bill, it must strike a balance that protects businesses.''