Former council homes in Aberdeen could be bought back by the local authority in an effort to help house the more than 6,000 people on the city’s waiting list.
In March, council leaders Jenny Laing and Douglas Lumsden, announced plans to invest £250 million in a council housing scheme with proposals to build 2,000 new homes.
Now the authority has confirmed plans for potentially buying back sold homes under the controversial right to buy scheme – and has said it will already consider applications on a case-by-case basis.
The scheme is at an early stage and there have been no costings done yet but the authority believes it could prove significantly cheaper to buy back former homes than building new ones.
Property schedules reveal a former two-bedroom council house in Middlefield is currently available for about £105,000, while a two-bedroom flat in Tillydrone Court can be had for around £58,000.
In contrast, new-build properties appear by far the more expensive option,
In June, council chiefs completed a £13 million scheme in Smithfield made up of 42 three and four-bedroom semi-detached properties and also 57 one and two-bedroom flats.
That works out at approximately £131,313 per property.
Other major plans are also in the pipeline for more new houses to help the administration meet its ambitious targets, but it’s thought the buy-back plan will be an important addition to the scheme.
Temporary housing, such as hotels and bed and breakfasts, come at a high financial cost to the local authority.
In May it was revealed that over the past three years, the authority has spent almost £26 million placing homeless people, or those at risk of homelessness.
In 2017-18, there were 1,541 people requiring its services, including 38 who were evacuated from a block of flats following a boiler fire. That represented an increase of 20% on the 1,266 relocated by the council in 2015-16.
Large profits have been made by some under the former right to buy scheme, which was suspended in many areas of the city in 2012 by the council and then across Scotland in 2016.
In Aberdeen suburbs like Bridge of Don and Cults, former council houses can reach more than £250,000.
Sandra Macdonald, the council’s housing spokeswoman, said: “We have instructed officers to explore options in relation to revising our buy-back policy and look forward to considering a report on the matter in due course.
“In the meantime we are flexible in looking at individual proposals on a case by case basis.
“As a council we are committed to exploring all options for meeting the housing challenges we face and are determined to pursue innovative solutions as part of a wider strategy that will drive positive change in the city.”
Opposition SNP housing spokeswoman Jackie Dunbar said that the idea had originated in their budget proposals earlier this year.
She said: “I was delighted that the administration accepted this part of the SNP budget and I look forward to not only getting the report back but hopefully seeing the start of the council being able to buy back properties from private owners when possible, that they may wish to sell back to the council.
“This is a great way of increasing our housing stock, supplying new housing stock does not necessary mean that it has to be new builds all the time.”
Aberdein Considine have their say
A leading north-east law firm, which sells property, has described the council’s housing plan as an “interesting idea”.
Chris Comfort, a partner at Aberdein Considine, said: “It’s an interesting development and encouraging to see the local authority exploring this avenue in light of the current market conditions and council housing shortage.
“While it may be met with some contention by taxpayers in the north east, any additional stimulus in the local property market is welcome.
“In the current market in Aberdeen, where despite a recent increase in the volume of sales and corresponding pick up in the oil and gas sector already stimulating the local economy, the market is far from its peak.
“Iff seen through to fruition such a scheme, if managed correctly, may provide a welcome option to those struggling to sell their own homes.”