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Housing

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

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Photo of John Mason John Mason Scottish National Party

I welcome the developments that are taking place in my constituency, where Parkhead Housing Association, Shettleston Housing Association and Glasgow Housing Association have all been building homes, and there is specialist provision from Loretto Housing Association among others.

I reiterate and underline my welcome for the Commonwealth games village, which is nearing completion and which, after the games, will provide 700 homes—400 for social rent and 300 for sale—as well as a 120-bed care home to serve the east end.

We now understand that, because there has been so much interest in those homes in the east end, developers are now showing interest in the wider area. That is very encouraging and is one of the things that we wanted to see from the Commonwealth games giving a boost to the area.

We all want more to be done. There are a number of factors as to why more houses have not been built and cannot be built at the moment. The first is the general economy. Somebody mismanaged the UK economy. I do not agree with the way in which the Conservative Government is trying to fix it, but it was under the previous Labour Administration when things went badly wrong.

Let us remember in passing that, when the economy went badly wrong in Ireland, one of the problems was that too many houses were built—houses that no one could afford and, in some cases, houses that are now being demolished. Let us not be too simplistic as we consider the numbers.

Secondly, housing associations are finding it harder to borrow. That in itself has a number of reasons. One is that the banks themselves are more wary of lending, because of some of the bad lending that they have done before. That is despite the fact that housing associations are traditionally very safe borrowers.

Another reason for the reduction in lending could be the bedroom tax and the concern that tenants will be unable to pay their rent. That, in turn, makes the banks and other lenders less certain about housing association income flows.

Just yesterday evening, I attended a housing association committee, and its members reckon that one eighth of their tenants are affected by the bedroom tax. Some of them—most of them, in fact—are getting help through discretionary housing payment, but that is only intended to be short-term assistance. There is evidence that some tenants are refusing to apply for discretionary housing payments, because they consider the bedroom tax so morally wrong.

A third factor why more houses cannot be built is that the Scottish Government’s budget has been cut. We have to be realistic about the money. I have to live within my means, as do all members here. So do housing associations, so do councils, and so does the Government. All of us have to live within our means. We would all like to spend more money on many things, and housing would certainly be a top priority for me, as it continues to be the main issue that constituents raise with me.

However, if more is to be spent on housing, less is available to be spent elsewhere.