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Affordable Housing

Finance and Public Services and Communities – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 16th September 2004.

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Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative 2:00 pm, 16th September 2004

To ask the Scottish Executive what action it is taking to encourage the provision of affordable housing for first-time buyers. (S2O-3156)

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

This year we have increased the funding for a range of low-cost home ownership schemes to £17.6 million, which is up by 9 per cent on 2003-04 and has accelerated the supply of such schemes, particularly in pressured areas. Our plans for a future programme of support for low-cost home ownership to help those on low or modest incomes, including first-time buyers, will be announced shortly.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

Does the minister believe that the measures that the Executive has taken so far are adequate to extend opportunities of home ownership to those who live in our high-pressure areas, especially those who are employed in our public services, who in the long term want to have the opportunity to buy their houses, rather than simply rent them?

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

I find myself in the surprising position of agreeing with Alex Johnstone. I hope that that never happens to me again. The issues that the member raises are exactly the issues that we want to address in our review of affordable housing. The Executive supports completely people's aspiration to be home owners. We want to lower the barriers that people encounter on their way to becoming home owners and we recognise that key parts of Scotland are under particular pressure. For a variety of reasons, we want to attract essential workers to those areas. That is a key component of our review.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

I am interested to hear about the review. It is nice to be back in a situation where I can monitor it. Will the review also examine some of the infrastructure problems that exist, especially in rural areas but also in urban areas? Will it examine issues such as serviced land initiatives and equity sharing? Will the minister take on the issue of shared ownership schemes, which we should be considering? Those who buy half of their house and rent the other half are at a great disadvantage. Will the review consider ways of creating a better shared ownership scheme for people who want to buy their houses?

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

I recognise the fact that Linda Fabiani has considerable knowledge in this area, both from her work in the Parliament and from her previous experience as a housing professional. I reassure her that we are trying to incorporate precisely such experience in the affordable housing review. The review will consider not only past schemes that did or did not work, but a variety of different mechanisms that can facilitate ownership and the supply of appropriate housing, especially in areas of need throughout Scotland.

The member referred to work on infrastructure. We recognise that the availability of public services infrastructure can be a major constraint on development. The Executive is consulting on proposals to resolve the development constraints associated with water and waste water in particular and will give attention to that issue in the coming period.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative

Does the minister agree that the provision of affordable housing depends on the provision of affordable land? Some time ago, I asked the minister whether she would meet Andrew Bradford, who represents the lairds and landowners, to see how they could be involved in releasing land. Has she met him and, if so, what was the outcome of the meeting?

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

Timing is everything in politics. I gave Mary Scanlon a commitment that I would meet Andrew Bradford and I met him yesterday. Despite some of the politics and the prejudices that I hear around me, in meeting housing needs in Scotland, the Executive is prepared to consider all options and nobody will be turned away from a minister's door if they have constructive options to offer us. I met Andrew Bradford, my Executive will look in depth at the analysis and the options that he has provided to us and we will make decisions on that in the best interests of public money and housing supply in Scotland.