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Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 Briefing 17
 

UNISON Briefing
The new framework for housing in Scotland

Contacts list:
Sarah Duncan - s.duncan@unison.co.uk
Lucanne Strachan - l.strachan@unison.co.uk
Ann Hulme - a.hulme@unison.co.uk

@ the P&I Team
14 West Campbell St Glasgow G2 6RX Tel 0141-332 0006 Fax 0141-307 2572

 

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WHAT IS IT?

The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001:

  • Introduces new rights for homeless people and changes to housing allocations policies.
  • Reforms the right to buy for new tenants.
  • Introduces a new single Scottish Secure Tenancy to replace existing tenancy agreements for all tenants.
  • Introduces a single regulatory framework for local authority and registered social landlords
  • Replaces Scottish Homes with a new Executive Agency called Communities Scotland which is directly responsible to Scottish Ministers.
  • Gives local authorities an enhanced strategic role and duties.
  • Requires the Executive to publish a strategy for eradicating fuel poverty within 15 years and report on progress every four years.

 

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IMPACT ON LOCAL AUTHORITIES

  • Homelessness

Every local authority must have a homelessness strategy, conduct an assessment of homelessness in the area and provide free advice and temporary accommodation to homeless people.

  • Tenant participation

Every local authority must establish a strategy for tenant participation, including demonstrating how they will take account of tenants' views and the proposals on which they are likely to consult.

  • Regulation

Scottish Homes is being abolished and local authority housing functions and Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) will both be regulated by Communities Scotland, the new Executive Agency.

The new agency will be able to carry out an inspection of local authorities' housing functions, require them to prepare and implement remedial plans and, if they are still not satisfied, appoint a special manager to a local authority. Special managers cannot be appointed to RSLs.

  • Performance standards

The Scottish Executive can issue performance standards for housing functions, which could include the prevention of anti-social behaviour, allocations and maintenance and repair.

 

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IMPACT on Tenants

  • Right to Buy

Existing tenants keep their current RTB conditions.

For new tenants RTB has been substantially altered:

  • The maximum discount is now 35% of the property's value or £15,000, whichever is lower. Tenants qualify for RTB after 5 years continuous tenancy.
  • Housing Associations who were not subject to RTB prior to the Act have the new right suspended for 10 years to give them time to adjust to the new arrangements. This 10 year suspension can be extended for another 10 years if the Association concerns wishes.
  • Special needs housing is exempt from RTB.
  • In designated 'pressured areas', where existing high demand for rented housing would be exacerbated by RTB, RTB can be suspended for 5 years. Only local authorities can apply to have an area designated as a pressured area.
  • Tenant participation

The duty on local authorities and RSLs to prepare tenant participation strategies means that tenants will henceforth have to be consulted on matters affecting them, including

  • policy in relation to housing management
  • repairs and maintenance matters.
  • Tenant management of stock

The Act also gives details of the process for tenant management co-operatives to take over management of their landlord's houses. If the landlord refuses to transfer housing stock or the two sides can't reach agreement, the tenants can appeal to the Scottish Executive.

 

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STOCK TRANSFER

Before any stock can be transferred (by either an RSL or a local authority) a majority of the affected tenants must consulted, given full information on the transfer and agree by ballot. Ministers can stop a transfer going ahead but a transfer cannot proceed unless tenants vote in favour.

 

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WHAT BRANCHES CAN DO:

  • UNISON needs to be aware of the potential organising opportunities that exist in the RSLs and local housing organisations.
  • The transfer terms for Scottish Homes staff will need careful scrutiny. Some staff have transferred already many others will be transferring either to Communities Scotland or RSLs.
  • Workloads for local authority housing staff may be amended as a result of the new duties imposed on local authorities by the Act. In addition, new performance standards may entail changes in duties and priorities. Other departments, such as finance, may also be affected.

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FURTHER INFORMATION

Scottish Executive: www.scotland.gov.uk

Communities Scotland (was Scottish Homes) http://www.communitiesscotland.gov.uk/

Scottish Federation of Housing Associations: www.sfha.co.uk

Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland: www.cihscotland.org

Scottish Local Government Information Unit: www.slgiu.co.uk

Unison Scotland (for information on campaign against stock transfer):
www.unison-scotland.org.uk

http://pages.unisonfree.net/agahst/

http://communities.msn.com/glasgowcampaigntodefendcouncilhousing

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Dave Watson
Scottish Organiser (Utilities)
UNISON Scotland
October 2001

 

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