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Affordable Housing (North-east Fife)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:52 pm on 2nd June 2004.

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Photo of Mary Mulligan Mary Mulligan Labour 5:52 pm, 2nd June 2004

We are talking specifically about rural housing development. I am conscious that we are consulting on housing development in rural areas for the very reasons to which Murray Tosh's colleague alluded. We recognise that with developments in rural areas we must retain the character of the area but also answer the needs of the people in the area. We are aware that we have to bring those two strands together. I have more confidence in our local authority colleagues than perhaps Murray Tosh has. I want to make progress, but I will come back to Mr Brocklebank, because I did not miss his criticisms of local authorities.

I was encouraged to hear that Fife Council is currently undertaking further work to update its existing local needs assessment to uncover the extent of housing needs throughout Fife. That work will be important in informing the best way of delivering the local housing strategy. While north-east Fife has a particular set of housing issues, there are general concerns about shortages of affordable housing in other parts of Scotland, so they are not unique to Fife. I will come on to speak about some of the general things that we are doing in the housing review and answer the questions on timing that Tricia Marwick posed. First, however, I will pick up on a few points that members raised in the debate.

Iain Smith recognised that the solutions to housing problems need to be adapted to particular circumstances. We have a rural policy, but we have to recognise that different settlements will need different solutions. That is why in our housing review we have tried to involve as many people as possible. Iain Smith said that there is a problem with the fact that more than half of the rented housing in Fife has been sold, but I am aware that Fife Council is considering applying for pressured area status. That may assist the council in some ways, but I have to be realistic and say that pressured area status would apply only in relation to new tenancies, so there is a limit to how effective it could be. However, that would be another step along the way to addressing the situation.

I am also aware that Communities Scotland has commissioned research on the effect of second and holiday homes. That will be useful in a number of areas where there is a preponderance of such homes that affects the local market and supply. We need to respond to that situation more effectively.