Wednesday, January 02, 2013

A few notes on housing in Nairn

"The Right to Buy" legislation came in the early 80's and was one of the cornerstones of Thatcherism. The policy proved very attractive to many council tenants and many houses were sold. That, coupled with a lack of new council house builds has led us to the housing situation we face today with long waiting lists for social housing. To some extent this will be alleviated somewhat in Nairn soon with  16 flats at the bus station and now, an application for 24 homes in the new housing areas along Lochloy Road. A lot more needs to be done however. A difficulty that we have in Nairn, no matter how many houses are built, is that the community does not have control of who goes into these houses - that is something that is decided by Highland Council and the housing associations. As a geographical unit we cannot decide ourselves who gets new housing. There is a school of thought that suggests we would be better placed if we had our own Nairn Housing Association to build houses on Sandown and in other areas in the town, and thus, see that those in the community who the community feels are in the greatest need get new accomodation. Easier said than done perhaps but it is a suggestion worthy of further exploration

One of our regular readers has been reading a document Highland Council submitted to the Scottish Government's Consultation on the future of the Right to Buy in Scotland. The Highland Council support the proposal to end the Right to Buy council housing. You might think that if someone in Nairn buys a Council House then that is not perhaps, a loss to the housing stock in one sense because that person might  have continued to live in that house for the rest of their days. There is some illuminating information in the document however from a statistics table that has been  summed up as follows by our correspondent
"HC has done research on the period 2000-2004 which reveals that when the houses are sold onward, many are sold at "very high prices" and that "significant numbers of buyers who bought ex-RTB properties originated from outwith the Area and also outwith Highland". In the Nairn area specifically, 43% of purchasers of ex-RTB council housing came from outside the Nairn area and 11% from outside the Highland region."

Astonishingly the document states that ex RTB homes are being increasingly purchased as holiday homes. Ex RTB houses, according to Highland Council, can even attract more attention than other properties because of their high standards and specifications. Our correspondent points out that Highland Council  seems at the same time to favour retaining the arrangements where housing associations have the right to sell housing to tenants but points out that they then comment that the ex-Council houses sold under RTB are often sold onward on the open market at much higher prices and thus become "unaffordable".

Our correspondent states: "The more I look at the whole notion of affordable housing and the role of housing associations and councils, the more bizarre and barmy I think the whole thing is." 
This observer has some sympathy for that view. "Affordable" seems to be such a strange word to use - what does it really mean? It seemed all so much simpler when Nairn District Council had an housing officer who was responsible for all the (what is now termed) "social housing". 


Rak mun said...

'Affordable Homes' is a meaningless phrase as it's usually spouted without definition as to what is meant by 'affordable'.

Usually it refers to housing stock that is affordable by someone on a professional wage, with a large deposit, and the ability to obtain a mortgage

Years ago this was a first time buyer who with such credentials would get a rung on the housing market with a small one bedroomed flat. But, house prices have risen so much, and mortgages are so scarce that many first time buyers cannot enter the market

RTB made many then council and housing association homes affordable to buy. It was Thatcher's way of promoting the 'I'm alright Jack' philosophy and was also a nationwide bulldozer through the socialist principle of providing public housing for all. We've never recovered, or at least social housing hasn't

If you have the money, buying and renting out a property will give you a far greater return than just about any investment, and many folk became landlords a few years back when 2nd mortgages were freely available

We're back to the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer when it comes to housing.

I'm not sure what the answer is. Local social housing for local people? Our 'schemes' in Nairn have been gentrified via RTB. NIMBYs won't like small social developments within prime areas even though that has to be the best solution as it doesn't create divides.

Maybe a radical government could reduce all property values by 90%! That should do it!

Anonymous said...

How do young people who are disabled and on benefits ever get a house, they will never be able to buy. Council houses need to be built for the vulnerable in our society, people who can work at least have a slim chance of being able to buy, slim though that is, it is still a chance.
There are a lot of thirty year olds out there still living with their ever suffering parents.
Most housing that would do for single people goes to elderly people who have given up family homes,so that's elderly and families taken care of. But still leaves a serious gap for single and couples without children.
We used to give local people first chance of council houses , I agree that we should be in control and not offering locals houses in Wick or Alness about splitting communities.
If I sound like an old Nairnite not wanting too many incomers .....then so be it!!
We have to look after our own and that means getting housing for them. This should be local councillors priority for this new year. Not one of them will try though.

Anonymous said...

Build council houses. Its good for the sagging economy,it will give trades employment and people somewhere to live. People need hope in these uncertain times.