Social Rented Housing (Tenants in Moderate Housing Need)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 29 June 2016.

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Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

4. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that housing allocation in the social rented sector takes consideration of tenants in moderate housing need. (S5O-00064)

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

Under housing law, social landlords—that is, councils and housing associations—are responsible for the allocation of social housing in Scotland and are expected to allocate their housing on an objective assessment of housing need. In general, people with the greatest need will be given the highest priority. That is the right approach to allocating a limited resource.

We recognise that many people who would like social housing are having to wait a long time for a suitable house to become available. The Scottish Government is committed to preserving and expanding its social housing stock, as part of action to create a fairer society. That is why we legislated to end the right to buy on 1 August this year, which will prevent the sale of up to 15,500 houses over the next decade, and it is why we announced our bold and ambitious more homes Scotland approach, which will deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes, of which 70 per cent will be for social rent.

Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

People in moderate housing need can wait many years for an offer of a suitable home, given that people who are in greater housing need are—understandably—allocated homes first, on the priority basis to which the minister referred.

Everyone should have the prospect of having their housing needs met at some point in their life. Will the minister acknowledge the independence and flexibility that social housing providers have to give greater priority to the length of time spent on their housing waiting lists? What guidance or indeed recommendations exist on such flexibility? Some of my constituents will never, ever get a move, despite waiting for a long time. It is understandable that people in greater need can get a house and move in quickly, but other people are trapped for ever.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

Social landlords review their allocation policies periodically. In addition, when we implement the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014, we will introduce changes to the law on allocations. We will publish guidance on the provisions later this year, and social landlords will then need to review their allocation policies, to ensure that they can comply with the legislation when it comes into force. As part of that process, landlords will of course need to consult tenants and applicants about their allocation policies. Given that landlords will be doing that, we should allow some time to see what happens.

Social landlords can already give points for time spent on the waiting list, as long as that does not outweigh the points that are given for housing need. I recognise that some applicants are frustrated about having to wait a long time for an offer of housing, but I think that giving priority to people in greatest need is the right approach.

I reiterate that this Government is ensuring that we meet our ambitious target of 50,000 affordable homes, 35,000 of which will be for social rent. That will help some of the folk Mr Doris described.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

Having rejected the United Kingdom Government’s approach to underoccupancy, is the Scottish Government considering action of its own design to try to free up the vast amount of space in the social rented sector that is simply underoccupied?

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

I am surprised to hear a member of this Parliament defend the bedroom tax. This Government will get rid of the bedroom tax as soon as we have the power to do so.

Housing associations and councils can take other measures to deal with folk who are in a house that is too big for their needs now. Some authorities have previously helped people with housing moves and offered grants for folk to move out of houses that have too many bedrooms for their needs. However, the Government will certainly not penalise the most vulnerable in our society with regressive policies such as the bedroom tax.