– in the Scottish Parliament on 6th October 2022.
7. To ask the Scottish Government how it is ensuring the availability of affordable housing, including for students at Scottish universities. (S6O-01434)
Scotland has led the way in the delivery of affordable housing across the United Kingdom. Almost 113,000 affordable homes have been delivered since 2007, over 79,000 of which are for social rent, including nearly 20,000 council homes. The Scottish Government’s per capita spending on affordable housing is more than three times higher than the UK Government’s.
We are also committed to delivering a student accommodation strategy for Scotland, which will be informed in part by a review of purpose-built student accommodation. The review will look at a number of issues including affordability and supply.
In my region, students at the University of St Andrews are being housed in Dundee due to a lack of local affordable housing, and we have heard about students being advised to defer courses if they cannot find somewhere to live.
The Scottish Government is not directly involved in student housing, but it works with universities. The majority of students are in social or private housing, and although the coming rent freeze is welcome, there will still be a housing crisis in Scotland, with more families becoming homeless and housing completions still being below pre-Covid levels.
When will the housing bill be introduced? Is it still intended that it will be introduced next year? How will it ensure that there will be increased provision of quality affordable housing?
Yes, the timeframe for the housing bill is the same.
The member mentioned pre-Covid levels. It is important to note that things have lagged because of the pause in construction and that trying to get things back on track has been challenging.
As the member recognised, the Scottish Government has no direct role in the placement of students in accommodation, but we are working with impacted institutions to better understand the issues and to help to seek urgent resolutions. Further meetings are scheduled to take place over the coming weeks. In our discussions with institutions, they have cited a number of challenges. However, institutions have sought to provide reassurance on the steps that they have taken to expand the availability of accommodation to students.
Our affordable housing supply programme continues to expand with projects coming in from all parts of Scotland. We want to encourage that, but we will work with institutions in the shorter term to see whether anything more can be done.
Will the cabinet secretary outline how the emergency cost of living legislation that is progressing through Parliament this week will support students in college or university halls of residence and other types of purpose-built accommodation?
If it is approved by Parliament, the emergency legislation will ensure that student tenants in the mainstream private rented sector and those in student accommodation—both university and college halls of residence and purpose-built student accommodation—do not see their rents rise. It will ensure that they can remain in their homes. The legislation will be in place until 31 March next year.
We recognise that tenancies in halls of residence and purpose-built student accommodation are structured differently from other types of tenancies, but we are committed to parity of protection.
International evidence demonstrates that, for many universities in different countries, such as Ireland, the introduction of rent controls has resulted in students being further away from being able to access private rented accommodation. Has the Government done any work to look at what impact rent controls will have in Scotland?
The impact that it will have in Scotland is to ensure that rents are affordable, that people are not evicted during the winter period and that they can remain in their homes. It astonishes me that, yet again, the Tories are on the wrong side of the argument. They are never on the side of the people who are most impacted by the cost of living crisis. Perhaps that is why they are where they are in terms of public support.
We will continue to support universities, many of which have had those issues for quite some time—well before any discussion was had about the emergency legislation. We will continue to work with those institutions to help them to resolve some of those issues, and will get on with our work to continue to expand the affordable housing supply programme.