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Friday, 11 October, 2002, 20:17 GMT 21:17 UK
Council wants 'right to buy' halted
Houses in a Cardiff street
Cardiff wants the "right to buy" legislation suspended
A Welsh local authority has asked for the right to stop selling its council houses to tenants.

Cardiff County Council wants the Welsh Assembly government to allow it to ignore the "right to buy" legislation brought in under the Conservative government 20 years ago.

The 1981 Housing Act allows council tenants to buy the property they live in from the local authority.


There has been growing debate that the right to buy has contributed to the chronic shortage of affordable housing

John Puzey, Shelter Cymru
Cardiff council says it will not be able to house growing numbers of homeless people if it continues to sell its housing stock.

Since the introduction of the act, Cardiff has sold 9,000 of the 24,000 houses it owned. Last year, it built just three new homes.

But the number of homeless people has grown - across Wales as a whole, the figure jumped last year by 24% up to 14,000.

A statement by the council said: "While it may be in the financial interests of some tenants who wish to purchase, it cannot be in the interests of the general public."

Part of the problem has been blamed on soaring house prices in the city.

The crisis in housing was highlighted by the case of one family who have been temporarily housed in a service station on the edge of Bridgend in south Wales.

The Murphy family, including four children, have been living in one room at a travel hotel for 13 weeks.

Problem

Opposition councillors in Cardiff have sounded a note of caution over the proposal to temporarily suspend sales.

No other Welsh local authorities have made similar requests, despite rising levels of council property sales in some parts.

Rodney Berman, Cardiff council Liberal Democrats leader
Rodney Berman wants the proposal discussed
Liberal Democrat leader Rodney Berman said he could accept there was a problem in the city because of the housing boom.

"House prices are going through the roof," he said.

"But what I'm concerned about is that we haven't had any examination about this in public so far."

Conservative leader Gareth Neale said: "They have got empty council houses in Cardiff that they can't fill, so why are they asking for it to be suspended?

"If people have lived in them and they've got the right to buy, they should have the right to buy."

John Puzey, director of Shelter Cymru told BBC Wales he was not surprised by Cardiff council's appeal.

"There has been a growing debate, particularly in areas of high housing demand like Cardiff, that the right to buy has contributed to the chronic shortage of affordable housing.

John Puzey, Shelter Cymru
John Puzey - 'more homeless people get help'
"For a council, that means people in housing need that they have a duty to assist have to wait longer in poor or unsuitable housing.

"Even more worryingly, homeless households with children have to wait an unacceptably long time in unacceptable accommodation."

According to Mr Puzey, the rise in homelessness in Wales was caused by a number of factors, including a "positive" change in assembly policy which had extended the homeless safety net to more groups.

"They were always homeless, but the assembly said they needed assistance from councils," he explained.

"There are some other issues as well: rising debt, and perversely perhaps, local authorities have been evicting more council tenants in the last couple of years, so that has contributed to the problem as well."

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Liberal Democrat councillor Rodney Berman
"House prices are going through the roof."

More from south east Wales
See also:

03 Oct 02 | Business
08 Oct 02 | Politics
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