The Scottish Government is committed to improving access to housing in Scotland as a core part of our Covenant commitments. Most soldiers, sailors and airmen and women are accommodated within military bases across Scotland or in Service family accommodation near their bases, and so, meeting the housing requirements of the majority of the Armed Forces community in Scotland is the responsibility of the MoD. However, some personnel live in their own homes and this number will increase as the composition and dynamic of the Armed Forces community changes in the coming years when more Service personnel are drawn from the Territorial Army and the other Reserve Forces.
The housing arrangements of Scotland's veterans also vary. Many will own their own homes, others will rent from Local Authorities and Registered Social Landlords or private landlords. A small number of veterans will be accommodated by charities.
For those who live outside the MoD estate we have taken significant steps to improve awareness of how best to access housing and made it easier for those leaving the Services to secure a home suitable for them and their families.
Steps taken to date include:
- Service personnel can now apply for social housing prior to discharge from the Armed Forces;
- Local Authorities have been advised that they should not insist on a possession order before considering renting accommodation to a discharged Service person;
- A circular has been issued to Local Authorities advising that they should work with military establishments in their area to understand and address housing issues for ex‑Service personnel. For example, it suggests identifying MoD property that might be released for occupation by local people and using vacant MoD property as temporary accommodation for homeless ex‑Service personnel;
- A circular was sent to all social landlords reminding them of the high priority that seriously injured Service personnel should receive for adapted social housing;
- The Scheme of Assistance introduced under Part 2 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 provides for grants and other forms of assistance to adapt private homes. The Scheme is operated by each Local Authority in Scotland allowing decisions to be made at a local level;
- Legislation has been introduced on homelessness to ensure that employment/residence connected to the Armed Forces constitutes a local connection, thereby enabling access;
- Priority access to the Scottish Government's Low Cost Initiative for First Time Buyers (LIFT) shared equity schemes is provided to people in the Armed Forces or veterans, widows, widowers and other partners of Service personnel killed for up to two years after their partner has died;
- The publication of a tailored housing options leaflet for advice and support agencies, social housing providers and bases in the UK and abroad giving an overview of the housing options across all tenures in Scotland and details of where to go for further advice; and
- The publication of a new practical guide on social housing allocations, reiterating and strengthening guidance on housing for ex‑Service personnel.
The Scottish Government is keen to share some of the approaches taken by social landlords to support ex‑Service personnel and prevent disadvantage through their allocation policies by developing further examples in the guidance note Social Housing Allocations; A Practical Guide. We intend to approach landlords and stakeholders in Scotland to develop and share examples of good practice over the coming months.
We will also consider funding applications from national voluntary organisations to the Housing Voluntary Grants Fund that are specifically designed to assist and support ex‑Service personnel who have a disability. An early example of this approach is a grant of £26,000 in 2012‑13 to Ownership Options in Scotland for a project called Military Matters. The aim of the project is to assist veterans who have a disability but are reluctant to use traditional routes into housing, access to suitable and appropriate accommodation.
We will also ensure that information on housing and the prevention of homelessness will be embedded in the material made available to Service personnel by the MoD Joint Services Housing Advisory Office. This advisory service provides a focal point for housing information and advice to all Service personnel and their families, in particular those about to return to civilian life, and to ex‑Service personnel who are still in Service Families Accommodation.
The aim of this work will be to further raise awareness of the difficulties some ex‑Service personnel have in accessing suitable housing in Scotland. It will encourage landlords to look at their own allocation policies and consider how they affect ex‑Service personnel. In particular, we expect to highlight the flexibilities social landlords have to develop policies that take account of the specific housing needs of ex‑Service personnel.
We are working in partnership with Scottish Veterans Housing Association (SVHA) and will provide a £2.3 million Housing Association Grant (HAG) in order that it can build a facility in Cranhill, Glasgow comprising of 50 housing units with access to outreach support for veterans. It is anticipated that the houses will be available for occupancy towards the end of 2013.
We will continue to provide priority access to people in the Armed Forces or veterans, widows, widowers and other partners of Service personnel for our Open Market Shared Equity Scheme, New Supply Shared Equity Scheme and the New Supply Shared Equity with developers Scheme. Registered Social Landlords administering the LIFT shared equity schemes on behalf of the Scottish Government will be asked to promote them to Service personnel and veterans in their area.
We will encourage the MoD to extend its Armed Forces Home Ownership Scheme to Scotland. The scheme currently operates in England only and given the MoD responsibility to its personnel right across the UK, we believe there is scope for a similar scheme to operate in Scotland. Such a scheme would allow us to help support members of the Armed Forces looking to buy their first home.