Social Housing (Affordable Rent)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 24th September 2020.

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Photo of Ruth Maguire Ruth Maguire Scottish National Party

5. To ask the Scottish Government what action it has taken since 2019 to ensure that social housing rents are affordable to tenants. (S5O-04629)

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

Individual social landlords are responsible for setting rents, in consultation with their tenants, and are required by the “Scottish Social Housing Charter April 2017” to set those rents at a level that tenants can afford.

We continue to have a clear interest in rent affordability—even more so, given the current economic circumstances. Before passing costs on to tenants, landlords should look closely at how they can manage their organisations effectively to keep rent levels as affordable as possible. We are also continuing our work to drive procurement efficiencies in the social sector to offset other upward pressures on rents.

When assessing grant applications for our record investment of more than £3.5 billion in affordable housing, we check that proposed registered social landlord rents at completion are in line with our published social rent benchmarks.

Photo of Ruth Maguire Ruth Maguire Scottish National Party

Although I understand that the Scottish Government cannot dictate to social landlords and that they have a process to go through to check affordability, I have examples of cases where that is not happening. It is important that rent is affordable to the constituent, and that what is done is not just about going through a process. Can the minister advise me on how best to address the issue?

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

First and foremost, it is about engagement with the housing association to ensure that the consultation on rent rises is right. Most registered social landlords do that absolutely brilliantly. I do not want to see lip service being paid to consultation, so I would be happy to hear from Ms Maguire about that.

One of the key things that I can do is ensure that new homes are set at the right rent benchmark level. We have invested £16 million in affordable housing In North Ayrshire in the past wee while, and all the completions that RSLs have made for us have had that affordable level absolutely bang on the mark.

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

Earlier in the week, Shelter Scotland revealed that 70,000 children are on social housing waiting lists, which is a completely unacceptable situation. That is compounded by years of Scottish National Party cuts to local councils in areas including Glasgow and South Lanarkshire. When will the SNP start taking housing seriously, reverse the cuts and allow councils to reverse the housing shortage and deal with issues such as rents and repairs?

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

I do not want anybody to be on waiting lists, which is why the Government has delivered more than 90,000 affordable homes since coming to power in 2007. I remind Mr Kelly that all the previous Labour Government managed to deliver was six council houses, all of which were in Shetland. We will continue to invest in social housing. I remind Mr Kelly that his colleague Iain Gray said that, although that previous Government put the right homelessness legislation in place, it did not build the homes to deal with what was required. We have delivered, and we will continue to do so.