Housing (Glasgow)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 22 February 2024.

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Photo of Annie Wells Annie Wells Conservative

1. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to address the housing emergency in Glasgow. (S6O-03102)

Photo of Paul McLennan Paul McLennan Scottish National Party

Glasgow housing conveners say that their biggest pressure is increasing numbers of newly recognised refugee households, driven by Home Office mismanagement of the asylum process. With no additional support from Westminster, we have provided more than £121 million to Glasgow to fund homelessness services and to increase the supply of social and affordable homes.

Homelessness pressures have been exacerbated by the United Kingdom Government’s freeze of local housing allowance. I have today written to the relevant secretary of state, ahead of the UK budget, to urge implementation of the LHA uplift in the years beyond 2024-25, and I hope that the member will help with those calls on her colleagues at Westminster.

Photo of Annie Wells Annie Wells Conservative

Homelessness is spiralling out of control in Glasgow, and it should never have reached a point where Glasgow City Council had to declare a housing emergency. Unfortunately, the work around Sighthill and the Red Road in the north of the city is moving at a snail’s pace, with only a fraction of the demolished homes being replaced with new builds. At the same time, we are faced with a Scottish Government that has cut £200 million from the housing budget. What action is the minister’s Government taking right now to increase the supply of affordable homes in Glasgow, so that no one is left on the street?

Photo of Paul McLennan Paul McLennan Scottish National Party

I have mentioned the £121 million that we have used to fund homelessness services in Glasgow and to increase the supply of social and affordable homes, and there are a number of other things that I want to mention. First, the capital budget cut from the member’s Government equates to 10 per cent—and there are a few other things, too. The member will be aware of this year’s homelessness monitor from Crisis, which has just come out, and one of the biggest issues that it discusses in relation to the increase in homelessness is LHA rates. Again, I refer the member back to the letter that I wrote today, and I hope that she can support the request contained in it.

As for the asylum process and the dispersal process, it is good that the asylum process has been speeded up. However, no additional funding is coming from the UK Government for that at all—none whatever.

I therefore have a couple of asks of Annie Wells in that respect. First, the capital budget needs to be restored following the cut; LHA uplift has to be brought back; and there must be funding to follow the asylum process.

I have met representatives of the housing associations on a number of occasions. We are looking to work with the Scottish Cities Alliance, of which Glasgow is a part, to bring forward some of its developments as quickly as we possibly can.

Photo of Jackie Dunbar Jackie Dunbar Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government must adopt a range of approaches to address housing pressures, not just in Glasgow but right across Scotland. I feel that part of the approach should be to ensure that existing housing stock is being used effectively. Can the minister update the Parliament on his work to ensure that long-term empty homes are brought back into use? That would go some way towards addressing the current situation.

Photo of Paul McLennan Paul McLennan Scottish National Party

Our investment of £396,500 in 2023-24 continues our support for the Scottish empty homes partnership, which has worked closely with local authorities including Glasgow City Council to bring more than 9,000 homes back into use since 2010. The partnership’s role was recognised by an independent audit of the effectiveness of interventions to bring empty homes back into use, which we commissioned and published last year.

We have already acted on some of the audit’s recommendations, such as working with local authorities to improve statistics on empty homes and providing powers to grant a grace period from council tax premiums for new owners of long-term empty homes. My letter of 19 September 2023 to the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee set out a range of our other activities to bring more houses back into use.

Photo of Mark Griffin Mark Griffin Labour

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations released YouGov polling that showed that 80 per cent of people believe that we are in the grip of a housing emergency. Indeed, a number of authorities have declared an emergency, with more to follow. Why is the Government so reluctant to acknowledge what everyone else seems to see, which is that we are in a housing emergency? I fully accept that, as the minister said in his response to Annie Wells, some factors are outwith his control, but why not declare that emergency and get everyone around the table to start addressing it?

Photo of Paul McLennan Paul McLennan Scottish National Party

I acknowledge that we are in a difficult position at the moment, but it is the same for the United Kingdom Government and the Welsh Government. The most important thing is the actions that we take. Annie Wells talked about Glasgow; when I meet local authorities, as I regularly do, we talk about actions that we need to take.

If there is an incoming Labour Government, I would ask it to look at restoring the capital budget after the cut. I have also referred to the LHA uplift rate, and I hope that Mark Griffin can take that issue back to an incoming Labour Government.

We are working very hard. We have provided £556 million in the draft budget so far, and we are looking at working closely with Glasgow, Edinburgh and other local authorities. However, the actions that we take are the most important thing and, as I have said, I will continue to work as hard as I can to make sure that we build houses as quickly as we can.