I was delighted to hear the speech by my hon. Friend Alison Thewliss. She spoke about the damage that right to buy caused in Scotland, so I will not focus on that in my short speech. Instead, I will focus on investment in new socially rented stock.
After years of under-investment in social house building, work is now under way to deliver 50,000 affordable homes in Scotland by 2021. People around the east end can now see the tangible results of that investment—whether on Cranhill’s Bellrock Street, Easterhouse’s Auchinlea Road or Shettleston’s Wellshot Road—because work is under way to invest in new housing, which will go some way towards meeting the demand we face.
That 50,000 target, though, should only be a starting point. I have been very clear with the Housing Minister, Kevin Stewart, that we need to keep up our investment in new build social housing. I was encouraged to hear him say at a recent Tollcross Housing Association event that, for so long as associations can keep up the house building, he will be happy to sign the cheques.
The reality, however, is that we will quickly run out of space to build those new properties, which is why we must also protect and preserve our existing tenement stock housing. As the MP for Glasgow East, I am acutely aware that about one third of my housing stock is made of tenement properties. A quick drive along Tollcross Road, Baillieston Main Street or Westmuir Street will demonstrate that. The fact is that Glasgow’s tenements have become a rich part of the city’s architectural heritage, and my local housing associations genuinely understand the importance of maintaining them to meet the demands of their waiting lists. They want to invest in and preserve those buildings for generations to come, but that comes at great cost and there is a role for the British Government to assist with that.
This morning I suggested to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that VAT could be reduced on tenement repair work. Currently, an association wishing to undertake costly works to preserve tenement properties will have a 20% VAT charge slapped on to the invoice. If the Chancellor was willing to look sympathetically at a reduction in VAT for that type of work, it would allow associations to invest in tenement stock and simultaneously provide a fiscal stimulus for the construction industry.