"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".