Housing (Rural Areas)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Finance and Public Services and Communities – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 8th March 2007.

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Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat 2:15 pm, 8th March 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive what support is being provided for rural affordable and socially rented housing. (S2O-12310)

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

We are doing a great deal to provide affordable housing in rural communities. This year alone, our investment in new affordable housing in rural Scotland is about £139 million, which is expected to provide more than 2,100 affordable homes. Together with planning policies that are tailored to rural development, changes to council tax discounts on second homes and significant investment in water and sewerage infrastructure, that demonstrates the strength of our commitment to Scotland's rural communities.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

The minister will be aware that the former Minister for Communities, Margaret Curran, identified the Borders as an area of particular housing need. In that context, it is extremely welcome that Communities Scotland will invest £15 million in Peebles in my constituency in building 138 affordable and social rented homes, which will go a considerable way to improving the housing situation for my constituents. However, does the minister know that the information from the local housing forum is that 301 such homes will be required annually in the Borders? What is the current completion level in the Borders of social rented and affordable homes and what will the level be in the next five years?

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

I cannot give the member information on completions. Next week, my colleague Ms Brankin will make an announcement on affordable housing for the Scottish Borders and other areas of Scotland. I am sure that members of all parties will find that announcement helpful.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

Notwithstanding what the minister says about increased investment, and given the change in social circumstances that means that people are living in smaller and smaller units—which members can evidence from their casework—does he have any evidence that the gap between the demand for and supply of affordable housing in rural areas is narrowing at all?

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

To an extent, demand is not under our control. As the member suggested, social factors are involved. However, increasing the volume of housing in rural and urban areas where there is a housing deficit is something that is under our control. We have increased the volume of affordable housing year on year for the past two or three years, and we intend to keep doing that.