Dumfries and Galloway Council Council has welcomed the Scottish Executive's decision (see below) to give 69 rural villages in its area 'Pressured Area' status for the purposes of the Right to Buy.
The Pressured Area option was introduced in 2001, to assist councils facing particular local pressures. It helps maintain supply of affordable housing to people on low incomes in areas where the Right to Buy could otherwise lead to serious shortages.The Pressured Area Status Application was a very targeted exercise to help preserve what is left of the social rented stock in our smallest villages.
The council and its strategic partners have adopted a number of measures to maintain and increase the supply of affordable housing in the region including new build, regeneration and Pressured Area Status. We hope these different approaches will complement each other. The common aim is to make it easier for people living here to access quality housing they can afford. We will continue to try and find innovative solutions to the range of housing issues facing the region.
The suspension of Right to Buy only applies to tenancies which commenced either on or after 30 September 2002. Council housing in Dumfries and Galloway was transferred in 2003 to a new housing association, Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership, after a ballot of tenants.
However, the council remains as strategic housing authority with responsibility in areas such as Right to Buy.
Council convener, Tommy Sloan, said: 'In a rural area such as Dumfries and Galloway, the vibrancy of local communities depends on the availability of reasonably priced rented accommodation. This decision helps towards achieving that goal.'
Chairman of planning and environment services, George McBurnie said: 'I welcome this decision. For a long time there has been a lack of provision of social housing in rural areas and I am pleased to see this being acknowledged.'
Dumfries & Galloway Housing Partnership chairman George Murray said:
'I am delighted that Dumfries & Galloway council's application for Pressured Area Status has been approved by the Scottish Executive'
'DGHP supports this initiative and in conjunction with D&GC we consulted widely in all the communities involved before the application was made by the council.
'DGHP wrote to our tenants asking for their views at the end of 2005 and the response we received was overwhelmingly in favour of the proposals.
'Individual letters will be sent out this week to every single DGHP tenant living in a 'Pressured area' who's Right to Buy is affected. Letters will also be sent to every tenant living in a 'Pressured area' who's Right to Buy is not affected.
'Speaking personally as someone who has lived and worked in a rural community my whole life, I fully understand how important securing the provision of affordable rented housing is to the future of our smaller communities.'
Scottish Executive press release follows.
Ministers have accepted the case put by Dumfries and Galloway Council for 69 rural villages in its area to be designated as 'pressured' for the purposes of the Right to Buy.
This means that some tenants within the designated areas will have the Right to Buy their rented housing association house suspended for five years.
The Pressured Area option was introduced in 2001, to assist councils facing particular local pressures. It helps maintain supply of affordable housing to people on low incomes in areas where the Right to Buy could otherwise lead to serious shortages.
The suspension of Right to Buy only applies to tenancies which commenced either on or after September 30, 2002.
Council housing in Dumfries and Galloway was transferred in 2003 to a new housing association, Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership, after a ballot of tenants. However, the council remains as strategic housing authority with responsibility in areas such as Right to Buy.
Communities minister Malcolm Chisholm said:
'Stock transfer to community ownership has brought huge benefits for Dumfries and Galloway. The increased investment is already providing more decent and affordable housing which people can afford.
'That will continue to increase with 132 affordable homes this year through the Communities Scotland programme and the neighbourhood renewal project which will bring over 600 new homes over the next five years.
'Alongside this, however, each local authority in Scotland has its own distinct housing needs and has to consider pressures in specific areas.
'Dumfries and Galloway Council presented a convincing case in support of its application, with compelling evidence of substantial pressures on affordable housing in these rural villages.
'This designation does not signal any change in our Right to Buy policy. The pressured area option has been available to local authorities for five years.
'The Executive recognises that there are strong views about Right to Buy, but we will consider whether there is a case for further changes only when we have seen the evidence that will be collected on the effect of the policy and reported to parliament this autumn.'
The pressured area designation granted to Dumfries and Galloway Council lasts for five years. It estimates that 104 current tenancies will be affected by this designation.
It applies to 69 villages, all of which have a population of 400 or less:
9. Bridge of Dee
35. Isle of Whithorn
46. Mochrum Park
49. New Luce
50. Old Bridge of Urr
The first pressured area designation was granted in October 2005 to East Renfrewshire Council for the 'Eastwood' part of its area.
Since then, designations have been granted to Highland Council, South Ayrshire Council, Moray Council and, most recently, to Fife Council for the St Andrews and East Neuk areas of Fife.
Right to Buy changed significantly when the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 reduced and capped discount levels, extended the qualifying period to five years and introduced the pressured area mechanism. The legislation also requires Scottish ministers to report to parliament by September 30, 2006 on the effect of the Right to Buy. The work for that evidence-based report is underway. Ministers have made clear that they will not consider the case for any further adjustments to the Right to Buy in advance of the report.