To consider the report of the head of HR, IT and technical services.
Cabinet considered the report of the head of HR, IT and technical services regarding the removal of restrictions affecting former council houses. All former council houses sold by South Oxfordshire District Council under the right to buy legislation within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty had been affected by a restrictive covenant made pursuant to either section 19 of the Housing Act 1990 or section 157 of the Housing Act 1985. The original purpose of the restriction was to stop former council owned properties being acquired as second or holiday homes in an attempt to keep them available for local people as far as possible.
The report summarised the arguments for and against the removal of the restriction. The arguments in favour were that there was evidence of impact on the ability of owners to sell affected properties because mortgage lenders were reluctant to lend on them; such houses might take longer to sell; and it was difficult for owners to find buyers who would “qualify” to buy under the restriction.
The report set out the results of a public consultation and the evidence gained for and against removing the restriction. The options open to Cabinet were:
1. Retain the restriction and policy in place. Cabinet considered that it was likely that purchasers would continue to have difficulties in a tight mortgage market, and vendors would argue that the restriction was making their homes more difficult to sell.
2. Relax the application of the policy. Cabinet considered that this would be confusing to residents and would further exacerbate the historic inconsistency in enforcement; policy and practice should be aligned.
3. Change the policy so that the restriction was removed. Cabinet preferred this option as the owners of the affected homes would no longer be presented with the difficulties in selling their properties.
Cabinet considered that the section 157 restriction no longer met its original purpose and was placing obstacles in the way of owners selling their former council houses. Cabinet asked officers to discuss the best way of publicising the decision with the council’s communications team.
RESOLVED: to remove the restrictions arising from the application of section 157(3) of the Housing Act 1985.