Housing

– Scottish Parliament written question – answered at on 23 February 2010.

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Mary Mulligan (Linlithgow) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive, further to the answer to the supplementary to question S3O-9334 by Alex Neil on 28 January 2010, in what way the reduction in the number of housing co-operatives is "a direct result of the Labour-Lib Dem Administration’s efforts in 2001".

Alex Neil: Under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 the then Scottish Executive decided to phase out the section 54 (Tax Relief) grant paid to non charitable housing associations, including housing co-operatives, to assist with corporation tax liability incurred on operating surpluses on eligible activities. This phasing out took place between 2001 and 2005. To mitigate the loss of grant housing associations sought charitable status and the fiscal benefits that status brings. Co-operatives were the only part of the RSL sector excluded from gaining charitable status at that time. Only 14 of the original 31 housing co-operatives registered in 2001 remain. The negative implications of the section 54 withdrawal has been a prime factor in leading to this reduction.

Cathy Jamieson (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what discussions have taken place with (a) veterans’ organisations, (b) housing providers, (c) local authority veterans’ co-ordinators or champions and (d) the Ministry of Defence regarding improving support for those leaving the armed forces to access suitable accommodation.

Alex Neil: The Scottish Government has regular contact with veterans’ organisations, housing providers, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Ministry of Defence on improving support for those leaving the armed forces to access suitable accommodation. This includes:

formal engagement, on a regular basis, with a range of veterans organisations to discuss housing matters;

support to and participating in the Cross-Party Group on Veterans in the Scottish Parliament;

regular dialogue between officials with veterans organisations, on a range of issues;

discussing issues for armed forces and veterans with our Social Housing Allocations Policy Review Advisory Group which includes representatives from housing organisations including the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland along with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers, and

regular contact with the Ministry of Defence since 2008 to take forward commitments set out in The Nation’s Commitment: Cross-Government Support to our Armed Forces, their Families and Veterans. For example, ensuring that eligible members of the armed forces and veterans, who have left the armed forces within the past year, or their widows or partners where a member has been killed in action, all get priority access to our Low-cost Initiative for First Time Buyers (LIFT) shared equity schemes.

Cathy Jamieson (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what action it is taking to improve support for those leaving the armed forces to access suitable accommodation.

Alex Neil: We are taking forward a number of measures, in consultation with the veterans community, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Ministry of Defence (MOD), to support those leaving the armed forces to access suitable accommodation including:

issuing a revised housing circular (HAR1/2009) to all social landlords in Scotland in February 2009 on "Housing for People Leaving the Armed Forces";

bringing forward an amendment, through the current Housing Bill, to homelessness legislation which will allow service personnel to form a local connection through employment or residence;

providing housing resettlement sessions in conjunction with the MOD’s Joint Service Housing Advice Office (JSHAO);

working with the Ministry of Defence and Registered Social Landlords to ensure that Service personnel or veterans on low to moderate incomes who are thinking about buying a property are fully aware of the opportunities available to them through the Scottish Government’s Low-cost Initiative for First Time Buyers (LIFT);

developing a national housing options leaflet for those leaving the armed forces and ex-Service personnel to help them access the right information and advice to find suitable housing, and

developing a new practical guide to social housing allocations. This will consider allocations as a whole but will also aim to support social landlords to understand and develop appropriate responses and partnerships to meet the needs of those leaving the armed forces and veterans.

Marlyn Glen (North East Scotland) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive, further to the answer to question S3W-30167 by Alex Neil on 14 January 2010, what the timetable is for reviewing each local housing strategy to assess whether equalities issues have been addressed.

Alex Neil: The submission of local housing strategies is expected to be staggered between the middle of 2010 and the end of 2012 depending on the local authority’s timescale for preparing their development plan. Each local housing strategy will be reviewed following submission.

Rhoda Grant (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive how many purchases for properties using assistance from the Low-cost Initiative for First-Time Buyers scheme have fallen through due to buyers failing to secure a mortgage on the open market.

Alex Neil: The Scottish Government does not hold this information.