Council to tackle lack of social housing by buying on open market

Dundee is following in the footsteps of Angus and West Lothian by adopting an open market acquisition strategy.

Dundee City Council to buy more homes in effort to tackle lack of social housing iStock

Dundee City Council is set to begin buying more homes on the open market to try and provide additional social housing.

On Monday, the neighbourhood services committee agreed to buy up homes that are of sizes and types currently lacking from the rental market.

Funding of up to £40,000 is available for each purchase and a best-value assessment will be taken on every property, including repair, improvement and legal costs.

This approach is already used by other local authorities across Scotland, including Angus and West Lothian councils.

Speaking at the committee, Liberal Democrat, West End Councillor Fraser Macpherson asked: “I’ve no problem with the principle of this…(but) quite clearly, there becomes a tipping point in value for money between acquisition and new build.

“Is there an upper limit in which officers are likely to recommend going ahead with a purchase and given that, quite clearly, we want to ensure value for money for the local authority?,” he asked.

Executive director of the council’s neighbourhood services, Elaine Zwirlein replied: “It’s difficult to put an upper limit because it really depends on the nature and type and size of the property and the location that we’re talking about.

“I’d like to assure you, that along with colleagues in city development, we would be very clear that we weren’t paying over the odds for any particular property or indeed fuelling a bidding war.”

The council’s open market acquisition strategy means it currently only buys homes on the open market if they could be suitable or adaptable for those with disabilities but the move will see this widened out to any homes.

These would then be offered up for social rent to tackle the lack of affordable housing.

East End Labour councillor, Dorothy McHugh, pointed to the problems of the rapidly changing market.

She said: “There are difficult times ahead. Citigroup forecast (on Monday) that inflation will reach 18.6% in January.

“House price inflation in Scotland for the year to March 2021 reached 11.7%. Has any account of inflation levels been factored into the strategy?”

Ms Zwirlein responded: “This report is basically just extending the scope that officers already have to exercise their discretion and they’re acutely aware of many of these factors.”

The open market acquisition strategy is additional to the council’s new build housing programme and a strategic housing investment plan for the local social housing sector.

Strathmartine SNP councillor and leader of the council, John Alexander, said: “We all want to see more housing.

“What we’re dong is a minor tweak. I don’t anticipate that we’ll have hundreds of homes purchased, (but) I can’t see a downside.”

Money for the house purchases will be funded from the council’s housing revenue account.

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