Brighton and Hove City Council is planning to sell off or give up control of thousands of its houses.

Housing bosses admitted the council could not afford the estimated £650 million needed to bring the city's 13,000 municipal homes up to modern living standards.

They have now outlined a series of options from which tenants will be asked to choose.

These include hiving off the properties to housing associations, setting up an arm's-length management company or using the private sector, through the controversial Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

There is little chance the city council will continue to be the landlord, in direct control of rents.

The options being considered are:

Arm's-Length Management Organisation (ALMO): This would be a company either entirely or mainly owned by the council to manage, maintain and invest. Houses and flats would still be owned by the council and some Government money might be made available.

Stock Transfer: Homes would be offered to housing associations, which have access to private money for improvements.

PFI: An external contractor would be brought in to manage, maintain and invest in properties, which would remain in the council's hands.

Community gateway: Houses would be handed to a private company but tenants remain on the management board.

Housing director Ian Long said a mixture of these options could be combined with different estates taking different approaches.

Housing councillor Jack Hazelgrove has given tenants an assurance they will make the final decision in a ballot.

The city council will make its recommendations next summer and the debate will be held after September next year.

Mr Long said the council had not pre-empted a decision and the widest possible debate would be held by tenants once the financial implications were known.

Conservative housing spokesman Councillor Geoff Wells believes a sell-off of Brighton and Hove's stock is almost inevitable.

He predicted tenants would protest, but felt cash pressures meant they and council taxpayers would be better off.

Coun Wells (Woodingdean) said: "Some kind of transfer would take the burden of maintenance out of the hands of taxpayers, who currently contribute a lot to subsidise council housing."

Councillor Kevin Allen, Labour vice-chairman of the housing management committee, said: "We want to give tenants the space and time to look at all options before coming to any conclusions.

"Stock retention is a problem because at the moment, unless there's a change in Government policy there are no extra funds available.

"All things being equal, the great majority of tenants would prefer to stay with the council and the great majority of councillors on my side would want that too.

"Unfortunately, we're not calling the tune on this one. To get up to Decent Home standards we need extra money which just isn't there right now."

Hamish Mackenzie, a council tenant who has lived in Newick Road, Moulsecoomb, for 24 years, said: "I know someone on the estate who has gone from a council property to housing association and their rent has increased from £50 to £80 a week.

"At least with the council as the landlord you can get hold of them and you have some security."