Housing (Shortages and Costs)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 29th September 2021.

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Photo of Beatrice Wishart Beatrice Wishart Liberal Democrat

1. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to mitigate housing shortages and rising housing costs. (S6O-00209)

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

The Government has delivered more than 103,000 affordable homes since 2007 and is committed to delivering 110,000 more affordable homes by 2032, of which 70 per cent will be available for social rent and 10 per cent will be in our remote, rural and island communities.

In certain areas, short-term lets can make it harder for people to find housing, which is why regulation of short-term lets is vital in balancing the needs and concerns of residents and communities alongside wider economic and tourism interests. We are aware of the concerns around price increases and supply shortages of construction materials. We are working through the Scottish Construction Leadership Forum to fully understand the current supply chain issues and, where possible, to put in place mitigating actions.

Photo of Beatrice Wishart Beatrice Wishart Liberal Democrat

Shetland is facing the perfect storm: increases in the cost of building materials; shortages; the fact that we are at the end of the supply chain; and a heated housing market alongside a lack of affordable homes and social housing. The situation is mirrored across different parts of Scotland, and it impacts particularly on young people and on efforts to keep them within rural and island areas. Is the Scottish Government’s house-building programme ambitious enough to meet Scotland’s current and future housing needs?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

I think that it is ambitious enough. As I said, we have increased our target to 110,000 more affordable homes, 10 per cent of which will be in our remote, rural and island communities. Beatrice Wishart might be aware that we have committed to developing a housing plan specifically for remote, rural and island communities. I want to ensure that all communities have the opportunity to be part of the consultation on that, because we understand that bespoke solutions are sometimes required for local communities, and we want to support community-led housing solutions.

Beatrice Wishart might also be aware that I recently met the chief executive and leader of Shetland Islands Council. We had very productive discussions, particularly on how we can work together to address the affordable housing needs of the Shetland area.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I will take several supplementary questions.

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

In recent years, the Scottish Government has made substantial investment in affordable housing in the Western Isles. What can the Scottish Government do to encourage local delivery partners to ensure that rural areas in all local authorities are not left behind in relation to future building projects?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

Although it is for local councils, together with delivery partners and communities, to determine the local priorities for affordable housing delivery, the Scottish Government’s ambitions for affordable housing are clear, and we expect appropriate delivery in remote rural and island communities. As I said, we are developing a new plan specifically for that.

The Scottish Government provides funding through the mainstream affordable housing programme and our rural and islands housing funds. A detailed rural housing needs assessment has recently been completed by the Hebridean Housing Partnership, which we expect to inform the forthcoming local authority strategic housing investment plan. Affordable housing developments are currently on site in Harris, North and South Uist, Barra and Lewis. The Scottish Government will continue to work closely with the local authority to enable future opportunities across the islands.

Photo of Miles Briggs Miles Briggs Conservative

Since 2013, more than £6.19 million has been received from developers by the City of Edinburgh Council alone as a result of exceptional reasons for not building affordable homes as part of developments. Can the cabinet secretary outline what those exceptional circumstances are? Has she spoken to all councils to find out whether the money is actually being used for affordable housing?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

I will speak to all councils in due course. I had a good discussion with Kate Campbell, the convener of the City of Edinburgh Council’s housing, homelessness and fair work committee—[

Interruption

.] The member should let me finish instead of interrupting from a sedentary position. I had a very good discussion with Kate Campbell about local needs in Edinburgh. I recognise that some of our national policies are sometimes quite challenging in local housing markets such as that in Edinburgh. All those things will remain under consideration.

However, the situation is not helped by the United Kingdom Government’s 66.5 per cent cut to the Scottish Government’s financial transactions budget in 2021-22, which arose from the UK Government’s spending review. That will curtail the initiatives that we would like to continue to see, so Miles Briggs might want to speak to his UK Government counterparts to ensure that the cut is reversed.

Photo of Emma Roddick Emma Roddick Scottish National Party

Will the cabinet secretary provide an update on any discussions that the Scottish Government has had with local authorities on buying existing homes, particularly those that were sold off under the right to buy scheme?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

The Conservatives were responsible for the right to buy, and our housing policy is now trying to pick up the pieces from that scheme. As part of that, there are a number of initiatives that local authorities can take forward, including the purchase of right to buy properties, which we would encourage. For some years, we have been supporting local authorities to purchase existing properties if doing so can clearly be seen to support the achievement of the priorities and objectives that are set out in their local housing strategy, and we will continue to do so.