Homes to Rent

Health and Wellbeing – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 28 June 2007.

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Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat 2:15, 28 June 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive what priority funding for building homes to rent will have in the spending review. (S3O-379)

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is examining all funding as part of the spending review process. That includes the funding that subsidises the construction of new houses for social rent.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

The minister will be aware that capital investment funding for housing associations in the Scottish Borders is expected to be around £7 million in this financial year, which is an increase of about 150 per cent on the figure for 2002-03. That reflects the particular need for social housing in the Borders. However, we are still not meeting demand. Will the minister guarantee that investment will continue to rise in the spending review period? Will he also commit himself to giving more support to land banking in the Borders? According to the minister's latest statistical report, there have been large increases in land value in the area. Will he meet Scottish Borders Housing Association, other housing associations in the Borders and me over the summer to discuss local priorities?

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

I cannot say any more about the spending review, as we must await its outcome. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing and I will input our views on housing and the amount of money that is available for it to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, but we will have to wait until the review process is complete.

Land banking has been fairly successful in a number of areas, and my officials are examining it to find out whether we can do more with it.

As for Mr Purvis's invitation to come to the Borders to meet him and officials, I am pleased to say that, during the recess, I intend to visit the Borders to discuss a number of housing issues. If Mr Purvis writes to me, I will ensure that he is informed of my visit. I hope that we will be able to make some time to fit in a meeting with him and others.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

Will the minister confirm that he recognises the importance of houses for rent as well as houses for sale in any affordable housing strategy? Will he confirm the apparent indication by the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing in committee yesterday that the Government intends to increase significantly the role of the private sector in meeting housing need? Will such an approach include houses for purchase and houses for rent? Does the minister acknowledge the cabinet secretary's indication that the increased role results from the current unsustainable level of public investment in social rented housing? Although he cannot tell us what will be in the comprehensive spending review, will he at least indicate the finances that he will argue for in support of affordable housing strategies, given his own back bencher Tricia Marwick's comment that the failure of housing policy in the past has been due not to the direction of travel but to the level of investment?

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

I am happy to reply to the member's question about houses for rent. The area is certainly as important as other areas of the housing market. Indeed, it is not a question of putting one sector above another: we place equal importance on the private sector, the low-cost ownership sector, the private rented sector and the social rented sector, and we have no dogmatic preference for one particular form of tenure.

As for private sector involvement, the private sector clearly has an important role in housing. After all, the majority of people in Scotland own their own homes. However, I make no bones about or apologies for saying that the private rented sector also has a role to play.

Although Johann Lamont is quite right to say that I cannot pre-empt what will be in the comprehensive spending review, I can tell her that the cabinet secretary and I will argue for the review to give the tenants of Scotland a fair deal.