Affordable Housing (First-time Buyers)

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 Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour 2:15 pm, 8th March 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive what action it is taking to provide affordable housing for first-time buyers. (S2O-12291)

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

We are investing in the provision of nearly 5,000 new homes for low-cost home ownership in the current spending period. That includes the introduction throughout the country of the highly successful homestake shared-equity scheme, which makes it easier for those on low incomes, including first-time buyers, to own a home of their own. First-time buyers will also benefit from our wider actions to address affordability, such as the extensive planning reforms and the development that is being enabled by our massive investment in water and sewerage infrastructure.

Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

The minister referred to the successful homestake scheme, which is being used in East Renfrewshire, but is he aware of the difficulties that young people and families face in parts of that area? Potential first-time buyers who have been brought up and who live in the area can no longer buy locally and live alongside their friends and family. Does he acknowledge that it is often the least affluent and most vulnerable members of our community who are directly affected? Is he aware of proposals such as that in Greenlaw, where a housing development has been approved with the proviso that affordable housing must be provided? Can he reassure me that he will support and recommend such measures throughout the country, so that first-time buyers are supported nationally?

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

The member will be aware that planning advice note 74 contains a requirement for 25 per cent of the housing in new developments to be affordable. In East Renfrewshire, we are providing funding to Arklet Housing Association to develop homestake properties at Greenlaw in Newton Mearns, and a further 30 units are planned for Auchenback via Cube Housing Association.

Part of the area in East Dunbartonshire that I represent experiences issues that are similar to those in East Renfrewshire, to which the member refers. I am aware of the problems faced by people who were born and brought up in a locality and have friends and family living round about but who find it difficult to get housing there, even if they have a strong priority need because of disability or some other issue. People in those circumstances require assistance, and the Executive will consider that.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party

The minister must be aware that last year saw the lowest number of first-time buyers on record and that the average age of first-time buyers is now 37. Although the schemes to which he referred are welcome, they are doing nothing to address the real problems that first-time buyers face. Will he consider doing more?

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

If the member will forgive me, I will introduce a wee bit of reality. Of course we have fewer first-time buyers, because increasing numbers of people bought over the past 20 years and are now on to their second and third house. The proportion of first-time buyers will inevitably reduce, because of patterns of social change.

The efforts that the Executive has made to increase, through homestake and other mechanisms, opportunities for first-time buyers to come into the market are making some inroads. However, I am aware of the price of housing and the problems that people have. We are creating increased numbers of social rented housing and more opportunities for first-time buyers to buy their own homes through the mechanisms that I have described, and we will continue to do so.