Speech on Housing Scottish Parliament 1 May 2005

The intention of my amendment is to get the Government to focus on taking responsibility for its actions and delivering a housing strategy worthy of the name.
It is most unfortunate that the Government makes assertions with no evidence whatsoever.
We should be focusing and developing policy on a huge range of housing issues, such as affordability, homelessness and the needs of disabled people, but we are stuck with a Government that is more interested in spinning headlines than taking action.

Over the past eight years, we built a real consensus around the key issues and built 36,000 houses for social rent, but we now have a minister who will not even tell us what his target is, and who claims that his £25 million will go some way to addressing need.

It is depressing that with this Administration we get assertion rather than action and headlines rather than creative solutions.
Despite being instructed to do so, it cannot even say whether the £2,000 first-time buyers grant is in or out—it cannot say yes or no to that.
Perhaps the minister will address that in his summing up.
What is the Government's strategy? Despite the spin, Nicola Sturgeon acknowledged the role of housing associations in providing affordable houses, which will remain central.

I am therefore at a loss to understand the distinction that the Government makes between council housing and housing that is built by housing associations and co-operatives.
It is meaningless to say that we built only six council houses, given that we built 36,000 houses of a high standard for social rent.
Despite what the Government says about supporting housing associations, the evidence is that there are going to be significant cuts to HAG.

There is uncertainty in the sector because the minister will not even tell us what the allocations are. Housing associations are fearful of the consequences.
They will have to borrow more at a time of volatility in the private markets, they will have to put up rents, they are unable to plan and they fear that development programmes will be halted.
At the same time, the key strategy of the Government's "Firm Foundations" document, which has been widely criticised, is to drive efficiencies into housing associations—with no evidence about where the inefficiencies are—with a single developer model, which I am sure the minister will acknowledge has been criticised by the people who responded to the consultation.
The minister has managed to create the impression that the sector that has been most successful in terms of housing strategy for the past 30 years has been living off the fat of the land.

The Government is attacking the key element of the housing association movement, which is community ownership.
I understand that the Government needs to address the discomfort of its own back benchers, given that £260 million is going unconditionally to businesses and that the Government is going to drive efficiencies into the housing association sector.

We hear all the nonsense about the £25 million. In the last year of the previous Executive, £501 million was spent on addressing affordable housing issues.
The £25 million is a nonsense.
It cannot go to the local authorities that the SNP urged to vote against stock transfer, because of housing debt.
The money is going to be top-sliced off HAG and redistributed to areas that do not have the greatest housing need.
The reality is that the Government is committed to not addressing the key issues of affordable housing and to keeping its own back benchers sweet.

A moment's scrutiny shows that it is not doing what it is claiming to do on the right to buy.
At the same time, it is flat-lining budgets for community regeneration and wider action.
The Government is paralysed when it comes to making the hard decisions and addressing the real problems.
It is settling for easy headlines that a moment's scrutiny shows to be nonsense.
I move amendment S3M-1812.3, to leave out from "the failure" to end and insert:
"that, following the parliamentary debate on 20 March 2008, ministers have not yet reported to the Parliament on the future of the £2,000 first-time buyers grant, despite the Parliament agreeing that they should, regrets that ministers have not yet reported to the Parliament on how the Scottish Government plans to respond to the consultation on Firm Foundations which identified serious criticisms of the Scottish Government's approach to housing; notes the critical role of housing associations and housing co-operatives in delivering affordable homes for rent; condemns the Minister for Communities and Sport for not yet announcing the allocation of Housing Association Grant, and reaffirms its view that the Scottish Government has no coherent housing strategy."