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Report shows effects of right to buy policy

28/09/2006

A report on the effect of the right to buy housing policy in Scotland was published today.

The requirement for the report was written into the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 which made significant changes to the right to buy in Scotland.

This evidence-based objective assessment of the modernised right to buy is designed to identify the full range of effects over time rather than review the policy.

Presenting the report to Parliament this afternoon, Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm said:

"Now, possibly for the first time in a purely Scottish context, we have a comprehensive, detailed picture of the evidence of the right to buy.

"Nearly half a million sales have taken place in Scotland since the right to buy was introduced in 1980. These high numbers of new homeowners mean that more than 67 per cent of Scottish households are now owner-occupied.

"Different areas have historically seen different levels of sales, and the need for affordable housing varies from one part of the country to the next. It is therefore really only at the local level of the community that the full effects of right to buy can be considered with any real clarity.

"Right to buy has been instrumental in mixing tenure and helping to forge stability in many communities as families purchase homes for the first time, but the report also recognises that this has not necessarily been the case across the board as the effects of the policy have varied depending on location.

"We do recognise in the report that right to buy can exacerbate the ability of social landlords to provide accommodation in areas of pressure but this is not a new finding. This is precisely the reason for the introduction of the pressured area mechanism in 2001, over and above our rising investment in new affordable homes for rent and low cost home ownership where they are needed most.

"I acknowledge that the debate on the merits of the policy will continue and that it is, as yet, too early to evaluate fully the effects of the 2001 changes. Clearly we will watch with interest what happens from autumn next year, when most tenants under the 'modernised' scheme begin to be eligible to buy.

"Such an objective overview of the evidence has, until now, been lacking. I hope that the report goes some way towards filling this gap and that it will lead to a more informed and more rational debate on the right to buy."

Section 62 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 sets out the statutory requirement for this report. It required Scottish Ministers to report on the extent to which Right to Buy has been exercised, and its effects on:

  • The nature and condition of the housing stock
  • The needs of persons for housing accommodation
  • The demand for, and availability of, such housing accommodation

The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 made significant changes to the Right to Buy in Scotland, designed to achieve a better balance between the aspirations of households towards home ownership and the housing needs of communities. These changes include:

  • Reduced discounts for new or transferring tenants and a longer qualifying period of five years
  • The extension of Right to Buy to those housing association assured tenants who previously had no Right to Buy, although this new right was suspended until 2012
  • Provisions to allow local authorities to apply for pressured area designation, for some or all of their geographic areas, suspending the Right to Buy for a period of up to five year

Key stakeholders were invited to provide evidence on the Right to Buy, and attended seminars on the report.

The Executive commissioned separate qualitative research on the experiences of tenants to inform the Right to Buy report.