Scottish housing bill will increase capacity and improve quality

Scotland's Housing Bill, published this week, promises to improve the condition of existing housing stock in both the private and social sector, as well as investing £1.2 billion to provide an average annual increase in affordable housing of 34% over current levels.

Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm said the Bill focused on measures designed to encourage and, where necessary, require owners to keep their homes in good condition and tackle the backlog of disrepair.

"We need a culture change in Scotland so that people accept the responsibility involved in owning a property. Quite simply, owners are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of their buildings. Where they don't take responsibility, housing conditions deteriorate, neighbours can have severe problems and public health can be affected," Mr Chisholm said.

The Bill gives councils more power to act and to step in and take action against owners who persistently refuse to undertake basic maintenance, while also giving help to those who are willing but face difficulties in carrying out the work.

Mr Chisholm said it would also be good news for private sector tenants who have landlords who fail to have basic repairs carried out. At present, tenants' only recourse is to go to court. However, the Bill will establish a new Private Rented Housing Panel to whom the tenant can complain, and who will have the power to order work to be done as well as impose penalties on non-compliant landlords.

In addition, the Scottish Executive is investing £1.2 billion to increase the availability of affordable housing stock as well as setting a benchmark in planning advice to require 25% of all new housing developments to be affordable homes.

To achieve this, it is reforming the planning system to help deliver the houses needed, and streamlining the release of surplus land by public bodies for the construction of affordable homes. This is being complimented by ongoing investment by Scottish Water in strategic water and sewerage infrastructure to release constraints on development.

The Executive will also be investing £470 million in the regeneration of deprived communities over the next three years to tackle poverty and exclusion. It is working to eradicate fuel poverty and provide central heating and energy efficiency measures to pensioners on low incomes.

"Housing isn't just about bricks and mortar, it's about places that people can call home. Decent homes, of the right type and in the right place, are vital to the health and well being of our communities and to Scotland's economic growth," Mr Chisholm said. "We now have the clearest picture ever about Scotland's housing needs and the condition of the country's housing stock. Today's announcements and policy statements focus on quantity, quality, opportunity and assistance, on meeting the needs of our population through all stages of life, and on ensuring that the housing system as a whole delivers for all Scotland."

By David Hopkins



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