As a councillor the greatest volume of constituent issues I dealt with were housing related and in particular people trying to get a house or to get a transfer to housing that was more suitable to meet their needs. As an MSP I am finding this is still the case with the highest volume of case work relating to housing.
The fact remains that we do not have enough houses to meet the housing demand that exists. Shelter Scotland have said; “The root cause of homelessness is a housing crisis which has seen the housing safety net stripped apart after decades of under investment. One solution would be for the Scottish Government to ensure at least 10,000 new social homes a year are built to bring hope to the 155,1000 on local authority housing waiting lists and much needed jobs to the construction sector.
In Fife the Council is rolling out a five year programme funded by rent increases to build an addition 2,700 homes and this is very welcome but would have been much more if housing budgets made available through the Scottish Government had not been cut. I am making the need for more investment in housing a key priority and campaign issue and will next week be speaking in a housing debate in the Parliament when the Housing (Scotland) Bill is debated.
The stated purpose of the Bill is to protect consumers, improve housing quality and secure better outcomes for communities. The Bill will formally end all right to buy entitlements for social housing tenants; create a new housing Tribunal to resolve disputes in the private rented sector; strengthen the regulation of Letting Agents; increase flexibility for landlords in the allocation and management of social housing; modernise the licensing of mobile homes and park homes; enhance local authorities’ powers to improve the quality of private sector houses”.
If we look at housing tenure for Fife 64.8% are owned, 18.0% rented from the Council, 4.9% other social rented such as housing associations and 11.2% are private rented. There are areas within the Bill that will give private tenants more support to ensure that the houses are properly maintained and local authorities more powers in a number of areas but the fundamental issue of there not being enough houses for the people that need housing is what I intend to continue to focus on arguing the case for a national house build programme working in partnership with local authorities to meet Scotland’s housing needs.
Open Cast Coal Mines
I joined with Fife Council leader David Ross on a visit to the Muirdean Open Cast site at Crossgates and met with management of Hargreaves the company who have been awarded the contract to restore the site following on from the previous operators going into administration. Whilst in Fife there were insurance bonds in place on the sites that were abandoned when two major mining companies went bust and this has meant we are in a better position that other regions in Scotland, I am still in no doubt over the difficulties that remain in securing a level of restoration of these sites that will be acceptable. I have urged the company and Fife Council to share more information with the general public on the progress, the difficulties and the outstanding issues not least the gaps in finance to bring about restoration and what is be needed to secure the additional finances. In both these discussions the company and the Council have said they will be looking to carry out more public engagement, discussion and public information events as well as publishing all relevant information making the whole process more transparent.
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