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50% rise in right to buy applications in last year

There has been a 50% rise in the number of people wanting to buy their council house in the last year, new figures have revealed.

Statistics published by the Scottish Government showed 972 applications were made to local authorities to buy homes in the third quarter of last year, up from 646 for the same period in 2012.

The rise comes at the same time as Housing Minister Margaret Burgess conceded building in the private sector "remains flat".

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) said it was "not surprised" there had been a spike in right to buy applications, as the Scottish Government has announced plans to end the entitlement.

The SFHA is now calling for ministers to reduce the time available for people to use the policy to buy their home, saying this should be limited to one year after the legislation gets Royal Assent instead of the three-year notice period proposed.

Policy manager Andy Young said: "The SFHA is not surprised to see a spike in right to buy sales. The Housing (Scotland) Bill 2013, which is currently at Stage 1 of its passage through the Scottish Parliament, is proposing to end right to buy entitlements in Scotland in three years' time and a rush to exercise that right does normally happen soon after the announcement of a policy to impose restrictions.

"We would urge the Scottish Government to reduce the three year notice period proposed in the Bill and set the date of right to buy abolition at one year from date of Royal Assent. This will strike a fair balance between giving reasonable notice to those wishing to exercise their right, and protecting the scarce resource that is Scotland's social housing stock."

Housebuilding statistics also published today showed work began on 2,802 properties in the third quarter of 2013 - down from 3,510 in the previous three months but up from the total of 2,394 from 12 months ago.

The number of new homes that were completed between July and September was 3,741 - up from 3,349 the previous quarter and also up on the same period in 2012 when it was 3,111.

In the private sector, building work started on 2,375 homes in the third quarter of last year, down from 2,643 the previous three months but up from the third quarter of 2012, when the total was 2,093.

More council and housing association properties were started, with work getting under way on 797 new social homes in the fourth quarter of last year, up from 427 in the previous quarter and higher than the total of 625 in the last three months of 2012.

The figures, from the Scottish Government, also showed an increase in homes competed through the Affordable Housing Supply Programme - which includes properties for sale and for rent.

A total of 7,189 such homes were completed in 2013, 12.6% more than the previous year, with ministers confident they are on track to deliver 30,000 affordable new homes by 2016, with almost 18,000 such properties build so far.

Ms Burgess said: "Today's statistics show we are well on track to reach our commitment of 30,000 affordable homes during the lifetime of this Parliament."

She stressed: "Housing is and will remain a priority for this government. We are working with the entire housing sector to increase the supply of affordable homes, create new opportunities for those who want to own a home and deliver vital support for construction and house building companies of all sizes throughout Scotland.

"As part of that package of action we have set out plans to invest over £1.3 billion in affordable housing over the four-year period between April 2012 and March 2016 and put in place a range of schemes to support private sector activity. That includes our £220 million Help to Buy (Scotland) shared equity scheme, which has already supported the purchase of hundreds of homes since its launch in September."

Ms Burgess said she hoped this scheme, which helps people buying new-build properties, would provide a boost for the private housing sector.

She said: "While the private sector remains flat this does not take account of the boost we expect to see from Help to Buy (Scotland). I recognise that tough economic conditions continue to create difficulties for private housebuilders in particular.

"I am committed to continuing to engage with the industry, and with all housing stakeholders, to explore those difficulties and work towards the shared aim of increasing the supply of much needed new homes."

Philip Hogg, chief executive of the industry body Homes for Scotland, said the figures "highlight the ongoing difficulties facing not only builders but those looking for a warm, sustainable new home".

He added: "Whilst they do not take account of the launch of the Scottish and UK Governments' Help to Buy initiatives given the timelag, they highlight a decreasing supply of housing and the record low base from which the industry must recover.

"Indeed, overall completions have fallen by over 40% since 2007 with the private sector having to contend with a staggering drop of more than half at 54%."

Liberal Democrat housing spokesman Jim Hume said the number of properties build by housing associations was now at its lowest for 15 years.

He said: "We know that thousands of households across Scotland are on waiting lists for socially rented housing. These figures show that under the SNP Government, housing association competitions have plummeted to their lowest level in 15 years. The figures also show an overall 18% decrease in social housing completions.

"Families with children spending Christmas after Christmas in temporary accommodation will wonder why the SNP housing minister is failing to tackle Scotland's housing crisis. With an increase in right to buy applications ahead of the policy being scrapped in 2017, I am worried that the SNP's appalling legacy may see more people waiting even longer for a permanent home."

Labour housing spokeswoman Mary Fee accused Ms Burgess of "selectively using the latest statistics to look like she is taking action on Scotland's housing crisis".

But Ms Fee said: "The reality is that under her stewardship, housing building is at its lowest levels since after the Second World War and the budget has been slashed. We also now know that the number of council and housing association homes being completed has fallen dramatically and the number of homes started has dropped by a third over the last year.

"The SNP's lack of vision for Scottish housing means more people are on waiting lists and less people can afford their own homes. It's time for Margaret Burgess to take control and bring forward a national housing plan that supports social landlords, helps Scots into their own homes and stimulates the economy through increased construction."

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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