This item was published during the term of a previous administration that ended in April 2007
Housing Bill Marks New Beginning For Scottish Housing
The Housing Bill paves the way for building strong communities with high quality, affordable housing available to all, Social Justice Minister Jackie Baillie said today.
Announcing the introduction of the Housing (Scotland) Bill into the Scottish Parliament, Ms Baillie said that the Executive was delivering on its promises to the people of Scotland.
The Bill contains measures to:
- Prevent and alleviate homelessness and strengthen the rights of homeless people;
- Provide an enhanced set of rights for all tenants in the social rented sector;
- Create a stronger system of regulation to promote improved and consistent standards in the social rented sector;
- Replace Scottish Homes with a new executive agency directly under the control of Scottish Ministers;
- Give councils stronger powers and duties to tackle local housing needs; and
- Extend the scope of the grants available to private owners for improving and repairing their houses and ensure that resources are targeted on those most in need.
It means central and local government, voluntary organisations, financial institutions and housing professionals can work together to raise standards in Scotland's housing.
Ms Baillie said:
"Today we are delivering on our commitment to overhaul Scottish housing. We have listened to the people of Scotland and now our plans are becoming a reality - this is the most radical package of housing legislation in a generation.
"The Bill is an important part of providing new solutions to old problems - homelessness, inadequate housing, varying standards of housing management, and demoralised communities. It provides the basis for housing strategies which look beyond bricks and mortar to the other factors which can help to fulfil housing needs across Scotland.
"It also sets the framework for attracting much needed new investment into housing through community ownership and gives tenants a greater say in how their housing is provided and managed.
"This Bill empowers tenants, empowers communities and promotes equality of opportunity for all. It is the start of a new chapter in Scottish housing."
Summary of key provisions
The Bill incorporates the recommendations of the Homelessness Task Force, strengthening the rights and opportunities of homeless people and placing new duties on councils and registered social landlords.
Councils will be required to draw up strategies to tackle and prevent homelessness; to provide good-quality free advice for anyone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless; and provide suitable accommodation for those assesssed as unintentionally homeless and in 'priority need'. On 18 December, the Scottish Executive announced a package of £27m over three years to support this work.
The provisions are designed to update the legislation, promote the prevention of homelessness and, when it does occur, provide a more effective response.
The Bill will make available a single set of enhanced tenancy rights for all tenants of councils and registered social landlords. The new 'Scottish secure tenancy' combines the best features of the existing tenancy regimes with new rights.
These include a new right to hold a tenancy jointly with another person; new extended rights for members of a household, including carers, to inherit a tenancy; and stronger rights for tenants to consultation and information, including a new statutory right for tenants to be involved in decisions by their landlord that affect them.
The Bill provisions reflect points made during the consultation, for example by making provisions for a one-step move to the new tenancy; further enhancing succession rights for carers; and amending the grounds for repossession of a house, including a strengthened power in case of racial or other harassment.
Linked to the Scottish secure tenancy will be a new modernised right to buy, although existing tenants will keep their current rights. For new tenancies, the discounts and eligibility criteria have been changed, and the Bill also provides for the designation of areas of housing pressure where the right to buy can be suspended. Overall these changes mean a better balance between the interests of tenants, landlords and the community as a whole.
To help protect the long term future of registered social landlords there is to be a 10 year exemption for properties which were originally let with tenancies without the right to buy, and this can be extended if there is a continuing need to safeguard the financial viability of particular landlords. Registered social landlords can also decide to opt in to the right to buy during this 10 year period if they so wish.
REGULATION OF SOCIAL LANDLORDS
The Bill will introduce a new single regulatory framework for all social landlords, to ensure a consistent and high set of standards across the sector. The regulatory framework will cover the activities of registered social landlords (including those established as part of the community ownership process), the housing management activities of local authorities, the homelessness functions of local authorities and factoring services provided by registered social landlords or local authorities to private owners. The single regulatory framework will be overseen by the new executive agency which will replace Scottish Homes.
The Bill allows for the conversion of Scottish Homes from a non-elected quango to an executive agency directly answerable to Ministers and, through them, to the Scottish Parliament.
The new agency will be responsible for improving overall standards of housing management by councils and registered social landlords, for managing the national housing investment programme and developing a strategic approach to housing across Scotland, and for fostering strong communities through national and local housing and regeneration programmes.
Councils will have a key role in promoting good quality housing for all households in their areas. In addition to new duties in respect of tackling homelessness, the Bill strengthens the strategic role of councils by giving them responsibility for local housing strategies, and gives them wide ranging powers to allow them to take on responsibility for funding development activity in their areas over time. It also gives Scottish Ministers powers to pay grants to local authorities for housing purposes including grants to allow local authorities to provide support services to persons with particular needs.
The Bill includes provisions to widen the scope of the grant system and to ensure that resources are targeted on those most in need. These measures will be complemented by the broad ranging review of housing quality to be taken forward by the new Housing Improvement Task Force announced on 12 December.
1. The introduction of the Bill into Parliament represents the next major step forward in the debate and consultation process that began last year with the publication of the Green Paper Investing in Modernisation - An Agenda for Scotland's Housing and continued with the publication during this summer of the Executive's consultation document Better Homes for Scotland's Communities.
2. Nearly 250 formal responses to the Better Homes document were received, the majority welcoming the general thrust of the Bill while offering views on some of the specific proposals. The Executive has taken these views into account in drawing up the Bill, and they have provided a helpful input to the detailed drafting of the legislation. The progress of the Bill is in the hands of Parliament, but it is likely to be given Royal Assent in summer 2001.
3. Copies of the Housing (Scotland) Bill and accompanying documents are available from the Stationery Office, or at:
News Release: SE3258/2000
19 Dec 2000