Firm Foundations: The Future of Housing
in Scotland Briefing No.168
This briefing provides an overview of the Scottish
Government's proposals on housing based around their consultation
paper, "Firm Foundations: The Future of Housing in Scotland".
This briefing highlights the main issues in the consultation and
UNISON Scotland's initial response.
This consultation paper outlines the Scottish Government's
proposals for housing in Scotland. The main aims stated include:
increasing the housing supply across all tenures;
creating more housing choice for those on
housing developments that contribute to sustainable,
mixed communities; and
social housing that provides better value
for public expenditure.
Other issues raised within the consultation include
a removal of the Right to Buy for new social housing, encouraging
local authorities to build new council houses, abolish Communities
Scotland and offering grants to first time buyers.
UNISON Scotland welcomes a number of the proposals
contained within the consultation paper, especially those that
recognise the key role of local authorities in the development
of sustainable communities and the decision to encourage them
to build new council houses.
However, UNISON Scotland would like more details
on the support available for local authorities who wish to retain
their housing stock.
UNISON Scotland has campaigned against stock transfers
and has serious concerns over the proposal to transfer council
housing to Arms Length Management Companies (ALMO's).
However, UNISON Scotland supports the Scottish Government's
attempt to seek clarification from the Treasury regarding options,
other than stock transfer, which could see them write-off local
authority housing debt.
Right to Buy
UNISON Scotland welcomes the proposal to end the
right to buy for new social housing and the review on the future
of the whole right to buy scheme. We believe that the right to
buy has damaged the supply of social housing, with over 480,000
council houses sold between 1980 and 2006.
The threat of the right to buy on new housing saw
a sharp decrease in new council houses being built with the last
available figures (2005) indicating only six council houses were
built in Scotland that year. UNISON Scotland support the complete
abolition of the right to buy from all future and current social
housing and would hope that the Scottish Government's review of
this legislation reaches the same conclusion.
UNISON Scotland would like more detail on the abolition
of Communities Scotland as we are concerned that the proposals
seem to indicate the replacement of one quango with another along
with increased central control. UNISON Scotland would like to
see the devolution of some of the current powers of Communities
Scotland to local authorities.
Environmental & Design Standards
UNISON Scotland supports the call within the consultation
paper for higher environmental and design standards for all new
housing. We believe that such an approach will not only produce
more sustainable housing but will also lead to a reduction in
heating costs and thus lessen, over time, the problem of fuel
poverty. UNISON Scotland has campaigned for many years on the
need to tackle fuel poverty within Scotland and the setting of
new environmental and design standards could make a major contribution
to tackling this issue.
Low Cost Home Ownership
The paper also highlights a number of low cost home
ownership options, including government grants, shared equity
schemes and working with mortgage lenders and investors to lower
mortgage costs particularly for first time buyers.
UNISON Scotland is concerned that there does not
seem to be any scheme mentioned to assist key public sector workers
in meeting their housing needs.
First Time Buyers
UNISON Scotland has some concerns over the proposal
for a first time buyers grant of £2,000. We believe that this
will do little to alleviate the current housing problems and may
in fact make the problem worse by contributing to house price
In general there are a number of proposals within
the consultation paper which UNISON Scotland would support. This
includes the role of local authorities in the development of sustainable
communities, the move to increase council housing, the removal
of the right to buy and attempts to improve environmental and
design standards which should help lessen fuel poverty.
However, the consultation is lacking in detail on
some of the financial aspects of the support to local authorities,
especially those whose tenants have rejected stock transfer and
who may now have difficulties attaining the Scottish Housing Quality
Standard. There also seems to be an over-emphasis on the private
sector, either through private landlords or increased house building
for sale. The basis for this approach is Scottish Government research
highlighting that owner occupation is the prefered choice for
86% of those surveyed.
However, the shift to this tenure has been largely
due to the right to buy legislation which has resulted in councils
often retaining the poorer parts of their housing stock while
still being liable for the housing debt of those homes sold off.
This in itself has made it difficult for councils to build significant
new housing in the past and has led to council housing becoming
stigmatised as a housing tenure for those on low incomes or benefits.
An expansion of council housing with new, more environmentally
friendly and better designed housing could lead to an expansion
in the social base of its tenants and would give many more people
a wider choice for meeting their housing needs than has been the
case over the past few years.
Action for Branches
This briefing paper is intended to update members
on the Scottish Government's housing proposals and to encourage
debate within branches.
UNISON Scotland will be submitting a response to
the consultation paper, and would encourage members to forward
any relevant information they may have to the P&I Team as
part of this response.
Firm Foundations: Scottish Government Housing consulation
@ the P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Tel 0141-332 0006
Fax 0141-307 2572
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