Former council tenants who bought their homes could be forced to sell them back to the city council if they put them up for sale in a bid to reverse the housing crisis.
Local councils have been able to use these powers since 2005 – but until now, Brighton and Hove City Council has not exercised them as it has not had a dedicated fund to do so.
However, next week councillors will be asked to back a new policy to bring back these homes back into council ownership on a trial basis.
If the proposed one year trial gets the go ahead, the council could buy back four homes, each costing up to a maximum of £250,000. Properties would be independently valued and people selling would benefit from a quick sale with no chain. The scheme would be reviewed next year.
Councillor Anne Meadows, chair of the Housing and New Homes Committee, said: “We are already building new council homes in the city, and this proposal is another way in which we could provide more homes to rent.
“Anything that brings us more social housing is fantastic for the city. Even if only a small number of properties is involved, it all adds up, and for four families on our housing register it could mean a new home.”
Money for purchasing homes would come from the council’s Housing Revenue Account and the properties could be used to provide temporary accommodation or permanent homes.
The Right to Buy is a Government scheme that enables council tenants to buy their home. Since 2005, any tenant who has bought their council home has to give the council first refusal to buy it back if they sell it within 10 years.
The rule also applies to people who have bought homes from former tenants if it goes on sale again within 10 years of the original right to buy sale.
In the last financial year, the council was notified of 17 such first refusal opportunities, 15 of which were under £250,000.
However, until now the council has not exercised this right to buy back. The proposed Home Purchase Policy would provide the formal policy and budget framework to enable the council to buy back council properties sold within the last 10 years, and longer ago, if they come onto the market.
Valuations would be made by a council-appointed independent valuer, and in the case of disputes, this would be referred to the district valuer.
If the policy is approved, it will allow the council to consider buying not just these properties, but any former local authority property sold on the open market – although the first refusal rule would not apply to those.
Members of the council’s Housing and New Homes Committee will consider the proposed Home Purchase Policy at a meeting on 20 September, before it goes to the Policy, Resources and Growth Committee on 12 October.