Damp Housing

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 20 April 2023.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party

I commend Foysol Choudhury for his motion and for bringing this important debate to the chamber.

I am speaking in my capacity as a constituency MSP, of course, and in light of the experiences in casework that I have received. The number of Edinburgh and Lothian MSPs who are in attendance is interesting. The motion was, of course, lodged by a Lothian MSP.

I commend the incredible action from the Scottish Government since 2007 in delivering 118,000 affordable homes across the country, but there are areas across the country—particularly in Edinburgh—where the standard of housing is not up to what we would want our constituents to experience. Indeed, the City of Edinburgh Council has stated that Edinburgh has the lowest proportion of social rented homes in Scotland. That is an important fact to consider when thinking about the wider question.

The problems that are outlined in the motion and which will be discussed in the debate fall into two areas of concern: the public provision of social housing through registered social landlords or council houses, and the provision through mid-market rent.

The clear argument that I want to articulate on behalf of my constituents is that, first, we need additional capital investment in Edinburgh to provide more affordable homes here in the capital. Secondly, we need to work with the local authority to make sure that the quality of the works undertaken is of the right standard.

I know that colleagues will also have had casework relating to repairs not being done to an adequate standard. Indeed, I have discussed that issue with the City of Edinburgh Council, and I would be happy to engage with the Government and the council on how we address the matter more substantially.

Foysol Choudhury referred to the private rented sector. The problems that are emerging relate to two policy considerations. The first is the lack of enforcement of our housing standards. That will become even more pertinent when 1 March 2024 comes around and the new standard is implemented. We have to get better at enforcing the standards that we have more strongly. I am not sure that we necessarily need new legislation—a new standard is coming next year—but we need to make sure that standards are enforced and that private landlords are held to account for the quality of the dwellings that they provide to people.

The second consideration relates to a piece of work that I started back in 2016 and which I was leading on in the Parliament until 2018. It has been taken on by other members of the Scottish Parliament—in particular, by Graham Simpson. I am talking about tenement repairs and maintenance. A great deal of work has gone into taking the matter forward by that group of MSPs and stakeholders, and I know that Patrick Harvie is leading on this area for the Government. We have to do the hard work and implement the law so that we have a system that facilitates greater upkeep of properties.

It is all very well building new properties and building them to a high standard, but we also need to make sure that we repair and maintain the quality of our current stock. That involves systematic change, and it will also require political leadership. There is lots of work to do. We are all committed to making sure that we improve the situation. All that I ask of the minister, whom I welcome to his post, is a commitment in his summing-up speech to meet me—indeed, I think that it would be worth while for him to meet all the MSPs for Edinburgh and the Lothians—to discuss the specific challenges that we have here in the capital.