Tory housing boss welcomes demise of Right to Buy scheme

Simon Mountford on site at Stonefield in Hawick, where SBHA are building 44 new homes for rent.

Simon Mountford on site at Stonefield in Hawick, where SBHA are building 44 new homes for rent.

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The new chairman of the region’s largest social landlord has welcomed the impending abolition – on August 1 this year – of Right to Buy for social housing tenants in Scotland.

Conservative councillor Simon Mountford, who heads the board of management of the Scottish Borders Housing Association (SBHA), believes the discounted scheme, introduced by the Thatcher government 35 years ago, hinders his organisation in meeting the “overwhelming demand” for affordable housing.

Demand for SBHA homes continues to exceed supply and it is likely this will continue

Simon Mountford

He revealed there are currently 7,300 people registered on SBHA’s Home Choice letting scheme seeking rented accommodation from an association with 5,300 properties on its books.

Since 2003, when SBHA took over the rented homes of Scottish Borders Council in what was then the largest stock transfer of its kind in Scotland, no fewer than 919 houses have been sold through Right to Buy.

In 2011 and with housing a devolved issue in Scotland, SNP and Labour MSPs combined to enact the Housing (Scotland) Bill and signal the end Right to Buy for social housing tenants, despite opposition from the Tories. But on this issue, Mr Mountford, one of three SBC representatives on the SBHA board, disagrees with his party.

“Demand for SBHA homes continues to exceed supply and it is likely this will continue for the foreseeable future,” said Mr Mountford.

“In this context the Scottish Government’s decision to end tenants’ Right to Buy should be welcomed.

“In common with other members of the social housing sector, we recognise the impact that losing homes has on our ability to meet the overwhelming demand for affordable rented homes here in the Borders.”

Mr Mountford commended SBHA, which is based in Selkirk and has a 200-strong workforce, for taking steps to increase housing supply.

“Over the past five years under the leadership of my predecessor as non-executive chairman [architect Ray Licence], we have upgraded our homes so they now all meet the Scottish Quality Housing Standard,” he said.

“We have also begun a programme of building new homes and, where appropriate, renovating and converting properties that are no longer in demand.

“Thus we have built three houses in Earlston for mid-market rental and are in the process of building 44 new homes at Stonefield in Hawick. Work on building eight new homes at Deanfield in Hawick is nearing completion and, this year, we will build four homes in Torwoodlee Road, Galashiels. Other sites earmarked for development include Rose Court [demolished last year] at Langlee in Galashiels.

“As a result of these projects we have developed considerable in-house expertise and I am determined to build on our success in this field.

“Going forward, our main challenges are the continuing tough economic climate and the introduction of Universal Credit which changes the way we receive our income.

“Our tenants will remain at the heart of everything we do and I’m confident that, whatever hurdles we have to face, SBHA has the right people with the right skills to navigate a way round them.”

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