I met a range of housing stakeholders, including the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, at the housing policy advisory group on 10 March to discuss the Scottish Government’s recent policy document, “Homes Fit for the 21st Century: The Scottish Government's Strategy and Action Plan for Housing in the Next Decade: 2011-2020”.
I understand that the minister has announced that in his innovation fund, housing association grant will be cut drastically to £40,000 a unit. What consultation has he had with housing associations and co-operatives on that? How will he take into account their concerns about the impact of that decision on the capacity of housing associations and co-operatives to do what they do best, which is building affordable homes and maintaining them long term in sustainable communities? Does the minister recognise that that short-term decision goes against his Government’s stated policy of preventive spending?
If it had been left up to Johann Lamont, housing associations would have been getting nothing per house, because she and her party voted against the budget.
It is not true to say that there is a maximum of £40,000 per unit: it is a benchmark, and we will build more than 6,000 houses every year for each of the next three years. That is substantially more than the number that were built during the period in which Johann Lamont was the housing minister. During her time in office, we had the worst housing record in 12 years of the Parliament.
Pentland Housing Association, which is based in Thurso, acquired a site some years ago in Pennyland Drive in Thurso. It has spent some £200,000 on developing the site, but for the past almost four years it has been unable to progress the project for affordable housing—which we badly need in Thurso—owing to the current climate and the rules that exist. Is the minister willing to undertake to have his officials speak with Pentland Housing Association so that we can identify a way to take forward that much-needed project?
I think that we are in regular touch with Pentland Housing Association anyway, but I certainly give an undertaking that we are happy to talk to it to explore every avenue, because I recognise the importance of rural areas and the particular housing problems that prevail in some remoter rural areas in the north of Scotland.
We are in detailed discussions with the SFHA, particularly on the transitional arrangements over the next few months. When those discussions are finalised, we will be in a position to give detailed replies on the exact number of houses and the exact figure for transitional funding.