Our annual outturn reports publish the percentage of affordable new-build completions that meet the housing for varying needs standards. The information that was returned for 2016-17 shows that 91 per cent of new-build units met the standards in that year, with the figure rising to 99 per cent in 2017-18. Information relating to 2018-19 will be published later in the year.
Local authorities are responsible for assessing and meeting the housing needs in their areas, and I confirm that we will shortly publish guidance on the setting of local housing strategy targets to support the delivery of more wheelchair-accessible housing across all tenures and to enable annual reporting on progress.
I thank the minister for his full answer—I will read the
Official Report to pick up the detail of what he said.
The minister will be aware that the Equality and Human Rights Commission recently concluded that disabled people in Scotland are being robbed of their dignity and independence due to a chronic shortage of accessible housing, stating that many disabled people are unable to leave their homes or are forced to live in a single room, which leads to mental health pressures
The minister will know that the EHRC has called for at least 10 per cent of new builds to be accessible. At committee, the minister said that the target was arbitrary, but will he commit to requesting information on the volume of accessible housing that is currently available through local authorities and make it available to the Parliament?
I have been clear to local authorities on the delivery of wheelchair-accessible housing, and I have said that, although we have benchmark figures for housing, we will be very flexible with local authorities that want to build wheelchair-accessible homes or housing with more bedrooms if there is a need for those in their areas.
I recently visited a new development in Cupar, in Ms Baker’s region of Fife, which has done very well in building both wheelchair-accessible housing and houses with more bedrooms.
It is key that the local authority housing strategy targets are right. I said that we will publish the new strategy guidance shortly—in fact, it will be published later this week. We will keep a very close eye on these matters, and I urge local authorities to use the flexibility in subsidy that they have at the moment to deliver for the people in their communities.
Does the minister recognise that accessible housing is not just about wheelchairs but involves many disabilities? Does he also recognise that adaptation is often an afterthought for local authorities and that houses often have to be adapted once they are built instead of accessibility being at the front of planning approaches so that accessible houses are built appropriately for people with many different types of disability?
In my original answer, I highlighted the fact that, in 2016-17, 91 per cent of the housing that was delivered in the affordable programme met the housing for varying needs standards, and the figure has now risen to 99 per cent.
I have listened very closely to what stakeholders have said on the matter, and I say to Mr Balfour that the housing for varying needs standards are a bit old now—they are nearly 20 years old. I commit to reviewing those standards in the near future, so that we will continue to build and deliver housing that is fit for purpose not only for folk with special needs today, but also for tomorrow.