St Albans council to buy back own housing stock

St Albans City & District Council

St Albans City & District Council - Credit: Archant

REVELATIONS that the district council is buying back some of its former housing stock for thousands of pounds more than the homes were sold for have been labelled as ridiculous by a local councillor.

St Albans district council (SADC) is buying properties to provide additional temporary accommodation for families.

The move is in response to a recent spike in the number of homeless people and families requiring temporary housing in the district.

However Batchwood Cllr Roma Mills said: “We are in the ridiculous position where the council will sell more than 20 houses this year despite our huge waiting list for accommodation.

“At the same time, the council will buy back four or five former council houses on the private market, paying a huge amount more than we sold them for.

“It marks the abject failure of the right to buy programme and of our local housing policy, a policy without enough houses.”

Cllr Mills said SADC had sold 18 houses in the past year at huge discounts under the government’s new right to buy scheme, which allows most council tenants to buy their council home at a discount.

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She said that in the second quarter of 2013 the district council received over £1 million from the sale of eight council homes, most of which received the maximum discount of £75,000.

But properties are being bought back by SADC at a higher price than they were originally sold for.

Cllr Mills said: “The former council houses are the cheapest to buy but the council is not getting any discounts.

“The £75,000 discount is attractive but it is coming out of the public pocket.”

SADC portfolio holder for housing Cllr Brian Ellis said: “We can’t stop people buying council houses – that is government policy, and they do get a discount.

“The demand from homeless people is rising. There were between 30 and 40 on the waiting list this time last year and there are now about 80 people, so we need to provide more temporary housing.

“There are people who suddenly become homeless for one reason or another and we have a duty to look after such people.”

Cllr Ellis said council had first right-of-refusal when its former housing stock was being resold.

He added: “They are generally cheaper than other homes and are located in areas where we have other council stock. We are buying back five homes this year.”