FORMER council homes sold off under the right to buy scheme are among properties set to be bought back by the Vale council.

A new plan has been unveiled by the council which would allow it to buy back former council homes, run-down empty properties, new houses and from the open market.

The council’s new policy sets out how it would buy more homes to “contribute to the provision of affordable or social housing”.

The council said it is “frequently” being approached by owners of former council homes looking to sell properties back, and it is also looking to take on “problematic” empty homes which have “blighted” communities.

But the authority has not previously been able to buy former council homes or empty properties due to the lack of “policy guidance and an approval process”.

It comes as the Vale needs an extra 576 new affordable homes every year to keep up with demand, according to a Local Housing Market Assessment in 2017.

A council report says: “Not only will this improve our ability to meet the housing needs of the people of the Vale, it will also help us to finance and deliver a robust programme for continued investment in our existing homes.

“As Universal Credit is rolled out across the residents of the borough, the impact is becoming clearer and an increasing number of private rental landlords are less willing to rent to those dependent on the benefits system.

“This is placing additional pressures on those serving this sector of the market, as demand for rented accommodation increases.”

The new Housing and Property Acquisitions Policy was approved in principle by the council’s ruling body on September 23.

The policy includes redeveloping the council’s existing housing stock, buying new-build homes and working with developers to secure council properties on new housing sites.

Buying open market properties, including former council homes and empty homes, is more financially risky for the council due to the condition of heating systems and the potential for legionella, possible asbestos, the energy performance of the homes and the cost of refurbishing them, according to the policy.

These risks have meant the council has not actively sought to buy open-market properties or empty homes in the past.

But the council now says it “must now consider” buying open market homes when they are approached by owners of former council homes, on sites which could provide new affordable housing developments, or where leaseholders of council-owned blocks can’t afford to pay service charges for refurbishments.

Other circumstances where the council would be asked to consider buying open market homes would be new builds which are vacant when they come to market, or if “there is a clear strategic reason for wishing to secure the property”.

The council’s Housing Business Plan has allocated £236m over the next 30 years towards the development of new council homes.

The cabinet has agreed to refer the policy to a council scrutiny committee before a final decision is made.

Councillor Margaret Wilkinson, cabinet member for housing and building services, told the meeting: “This document is very welcome because of the housing need in the Vale.

“Housing need is very important in the Vale. We have a long waiting list.

“We have to make sure these are properties we have finance for and they are up to our standards as well.”