Affordable Housing

Health and Well-being – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 25th October 2007.

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Photo of David Whitton David Whitton Labour 2:15 pm, 25th October 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive what plans it has to assist local authorities to meet sustainable targets for the construction of affordable housing for purchase and rent. (S3O-947)

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

Proposals for improving the supply of affordable housing will be set out in our forthcoming discussion document on the future of housing in Scotland.

Photo of David Whitton David Whitton Labour

I am sure that the document will give a warm welcome to an initiative by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who earlier this year announced plans to build five new eco-towns. The PM hoped that one of those towns—offering 20,000 new homes, each constructed to environmentally zero-carbon standards—would be built in Scotland. A Scottish National Party spokesman welcomed the announcement, but since then we have heard nothing. What steps has the minister taken to encourage Scottish councils to bid to host an eco-town? If, as I suspect, the answer is none, will he join me in encouraging East Dunbartonshire Council—my local authority—to do so, given the severe shortage of housing for rent in my constituency?

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

Councils are free to bid to host one of the eco-towns that the United Kingdom Government has proposed. I cannot discuss the contents of the forthcoming housing consultation document, but I am sure that David Whitton and many other members from all parties will be interested in what it contains and will take part in the consultation that will follow its publication. I am sure that many aspects of the paper will be of great interest not only to David Whitton but to his constituents.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

I sincerely hope that the paper will not be of interest only to David Whitton's constituents, although I am sure that they are lovely people. In Edinburgh 25,000 of my constituents are waiting on the council housing list. In Edinburgh, we are very good at building houses, but will the Government make it easier for the City of Edinburgh Council to build council houses, as Midlothian Council is doing? Will the Government explain to Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling that they must give the same opportunity to the City of Edinburgh Council that they have given to Midlothian Council, by cancelling the council housing debt that Edinburgh still carries because tenants voted against stock transfer?

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

As I have said before in the chamber, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth wrote to the Treasury on 26 September to ask about the circumstances—other than housing stock transfer—in which it would consider writing off local authority housing debt. We have not yet received a response from the Treasury.

On the wider issue, we have high ambitions for house building in Scotland. We will bring forward proposals in the next wee while and publish the document that I mentioned. I am sure that the member will be involved in the consultation on behalf of her constituents in the Edinburgh area.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I preface my remarks by saying that I know that the minister is not John Swinney and that he will not be making comprehensive spending review decisions. However, I want to ask him about his responsibilities.

The minister will be aware of the work of the housing coalition and its affordable housing demands, which we will no doubt discuss next week. I am sure that he is also aware that the housing coalition commended as an important turning point the budget allocation for housing in the previous comprehensive spending review, in 2004. Will he confirm that he is arguing for at least the same allocation share for housing in this comprehensive spending review as there was in 2004? Will he acknowledge that that would display a real commitment to the affordable housing programme by his Administration?

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

Our commitment to the affordable housing programme in Scotland will be shown by our real commitment to dealing with the crisis that we have been left, which was created by what the previous Administration did over the past eight years. I guarantee that, with the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, I have made strong representations to ensure that housing is a Government priority. We have made that clear. I am sure that when the spending review is published in November and when the housing consultation document is published in the next week or two, our commitment to housing will be clear.