Housing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:10 pm on 9th April 2019.

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Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 6:10 pm, 9th April 2019

Thank you for calling me, Mr Deputy Speaker; it is a wee bit sooner than I had expected to be called, but I am glad to speak for the SNP in this debate. Our record on housing in Scotland is excellent and far outstrips the record of the Conservatives in England. I am sure there is much the UK Government could learn from what Scotland has done.

Part of the problem with the Conservatives’ approach is its ideological underpinning. They insist on the dream of everyone owning their own home, totally undermining the fact that many people can live long, happy and productive lives in social rented housing. For many of my constituents, a social rented house is an aspiration, and they are perfectly happy to live in one. Indeed, my gran lived in social rented housing her entire life and never owned her home.

The Tories’ record on housing is one of their failed promises. The UK Government talk big but deliver very little, with flagship manifesto pledges disappearing almost as soon as they are made. House building in England has fallen to its lowest level since the 1920s, while evictions are at a record level, the lead cause of people becoming homeless is the end of a tenancy, and a mere one in five council homes is replaced when it is sold.

Contrast that with Scotland, where we have ended the right to buy for social rented housing, securing social rented housing stock for the future. No longer do houses disappear from the social rented sector and reappear almost instantly in the private rented sector at inflated rents that people cannot afford to pay. We have secured that investment, which has meant a huge amount to many of my constituents and to people right across Scotland.

In England in particular, hundreds of thousands of people are stuck on social housing waiting lists because new stock just is not being built and houses that are sold off are not replaced. All the while, homelessness is up by 50% and rough sleeping has risen for seven consecutive years. I note that the Minister said rough sleeping has fallen recently, but that is on the back of huge spikes.