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26% increase in council house sales

Sales of council housing rose by 26% following the decision to scrap tenants' right to buy, according to new figures.

Official statistics show that after years of decline, the number of public authority homes sold in the year to March rose from 1,209 to 1,526.

The Scottish Government announced last year that the so-called right to buy, which was previously abolished for new tenants, was to end altogether.

Statisticians conclude the announcement "is likely to be responsible" for the upturn in sales as tenants buy their homes while they still have the opportunity.

Over the same period, 1,140 new council homes were built in Scotland, the highest total in 25 years.

The number of affordable homes also rose by 17%, with 7,012 completed.

Housing minister Margaret Burgess said: "Over 4,000 new council houses have been delivered through the Scottish Government's Council House Building Programme since 2009.

"The supply of affordable housing continues to be a high priority for us and we are working with the entire sector to increase the supply of affordable homes and deliver vital support for construction and housebuilding companies throughout Scotland.

"Since 2011 we have delivered more than 21,000 new affordable homes, bringing us over two-thirds of the way towards our five-year target of 30,000 new homes."

Across Scotland the total number of new homes increased by 7% over the past year to 15,957, with Aberdeenshire, Edinburgh and Glasgow accounting for more than a quarter.

The increase is the first since 2007-08 but the supply of new homes still remains well below pre-recession levels.

Last year 14,737 new houses were built, a rise of 5% on the previous year and the first increase in six years.

Ms Burgess said: "It is encouraging to see that the number of new homes in Scotland has risen in the last year, driven in large part by an increase in the number of private-sector completions.

"This is the first annual increase since before the recession, reflecting the growing confidence within the housing market, which the Scottish Government has helped to stimulate through investment in initiatives designed to support the sector and help people into home ownership.

"Nonetheless, new housing supply remains well below pre-recession levels and I recognise that the housebuilding industry continues to face a number of challenges.

"We are committed to working with organisations across the housing sector to address these and work towards the shared goal of securing a sustained increase in housing supply."

Susan Torrance, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SGHA) policy manager, said: "The SFHA broadly welcomes the new Scottish Government housing statistics published today which show an increase in the supply of housing in Scotland for the first time since 2007/2008.

"The recognition, however, that we still have a very long way to go to recover from the 42% decrease in completions since then is sobering and reflects the challenge to all providers of new housing."

Vaughan Hart, managing director of the Scottish Building Federation, said the figures suggested initiatives such as the Government's Help to Buy scheme were having an impact.

He said: "With the number of new homes being built still 42% below the level recorded in 2007/08, there is more work to do to secure a sustainable long-term recovery within the industry.

"Sustained investment in affordable housing and the continuation of schemes such as Help to Buy will be crucial to achieving that."

Philip Hogg, chief executive of trade body Homes for Scotland which represents companies delivering 95% of new homes built for sale, issued a warning over the scheme.

He said: "Whilst we applaud the Scottish Government for introducing the scheme, funding for this year has already run out, leaving both buyers and builders very frustrated.

"The industry has effectively had the rug pulled from beneath it before any firm recovery has had the opportunity to take hold.

"The impact is already apparent with significant drops in sales in the weeks since the budget expired in July. We therefore fear a return to decline in the months ahead."

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said the Government was only "scratching the surface" of the housing problem.

He said: "To bring hope to the 155,100 people currently on local authority housing waiting lists, the Scottish Government needs to increase the scale of its ambition and commit to funding at least 10,000 new socially-rented homes a year to meet the backlog and increased demand.

"Until that happens, with demand outstripping supply, there is still the potential for rents and house prices to rise faster than people's income, making housing less affordable for more people."

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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