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Housing

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 4th December 2013.

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Photo of Margaret Burgess Margaret Burgess Scottish National Party

I am taking no more interventions. I am sorry.

I look forward to that scheme making a positive difference in the coming months and years and increasing the demand for and supply of new housing.

Help to buy sits alongside other initiatives that we have supported or launched, such as our other shared equity programmes, the house-building infrastructure loan fund, and the private sector-led MI new home scheme.

The story of our support is rich, diverse and on-going, and throughout it all runs the theme of innovation. For example, the national housing trust initiative, the first guarantee-based model for housing in the UK, is going from strength to strength, with deals being secured with 13 developers across 10 council areas, generating around £150 million of housing development.

I turn now to homelessness. In 2003, the first devolved Scottish Parliament unanimously and rightly set an historic target to ensure that every unintentionally homeless person should have an entitlement to settled accommodation. In 2008, Iain Gray described that as

“the best homelessness legislation in the world,” but admitted that,

“we didn’t build the housing to make it work”.

Instead, it has fallen to this Administration, in tough economic times, to build homes and to deliver on that historic commitment, which I confirmed almost a year ago.

At the same time, we have also made progress in reducing the number of children in temporary accommodation, alongside wider falls in recorded homelessness in Scotland. For example, in 2012-13, the number of households with children in temporary accommodation reduced by 551 or 16 per cent. Those figures are going in the right direction, but we are not complacent. We want to minimise all time spent in temporary accommodation, and a temporary accommodation sub-group of key stakeholders, including the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, councils and Shelter, is due to report to the homelessness prevention and strategy group this month. We will use that and other evidence to consider what further steps need to be taken on standards in temporary accommodation. We also recognise the importance of addressing rough sleeping, and will continue to focus on preventing that from happening wherever possible. The latest statistics again indicate continuing falls in recorded homelessness across Scotland, including falls in rough sleeping.

Our record on housing leadership over the past 12 months includes boosting housing supply budgets, outperforming Labour on affordable supply, staying on track to deliver 30,000 affordable homes, launching the help to buy Scotland scheme, expanding and developing the national housing trust, and achieving the historic homelessness commitment. Now, with the Housing (Scotland) Bill, which I introduced to the Parliament last month, the SNP Government will again take the lead. The bill will introduce a regulatory framework for letting agents, create a new private rented sector housing tribunal, increase flexibility in the allocation and management of social housing, and end the right to buy, thereby preventing the sale of up to 15,500 social rented houses over 10 years.

However, only independence will allow us to deliver policies that reflect Scotland’s values, support strong communities and promote social justice. For example, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has pointed out that, under the current system—[Interruption.]