Housing associations celebrated at Holyrood as Westminster policy clouds gather
Ahead of a debate on housing in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 13 September, the good work of two housing associations, both of whom are members of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), has been highlighted in Parliamentary motions by MSPs (1), but a note of caution has been sounded by the SFHA about the effect on some of Scotland’s most vulnerable social housing tenants of current UK Government social security policy.
Renfrewshire South MSP Tom Arthur congratulated SFHA member Barrhead Housing Association on its 30th anniversary, praising the exceptional work in providing housing for a wide range of needs, including sheltered and wheelchair standard housing, while Christina McKelvie, the MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse commended Blue Triangle Housing Association for 20 years of work which have seen it help over 600 homeless people in Hamilton to make the transition to employment and permanent housing tenancy.
Echoing this praise, SFHA Chief Executive Mary Taylor said:
“Barrhead and Blue Triangle Housing Associations are fantastic examples of the range of service and support provided to the community by our members. Barrhead provides a range of high quality accommodation in its local community, not only for general needs but for some of the more vulnerable, including a 12-person homeless project. Blue Triangle’s activities across nine local authority areas are specifically targeted at offering particularly vulnerable people, the homeless, those under threat of homelessness and those who have a looked after or accommodated background, helping them improve their employability prospects and life chances.
“Unfortunately, both services are under threat from the UK Government’s policies of the overall benefit cap and of capping Housing Benefit at Local Housing Allowance (LHA) levels, rendering projects like those carried out by Blue Triangle, Barrhead, and a host of other associations across Scotland, financially unsustainable. Depending on their level of need, future vulnerable tenants seeking the type of support Blue Triangle offers could face shortfalls in the money they receive to pay their rent of between £150 and £260 per week. (2)
“Only last week, Scottish Women’s Aid highlighted the threat from the LHA cap to refuges for those suffering domestic violence. (3) The cost of providing intensive services inevitably lead to higher rents but still represent far greater value for money and a saving to the public purse than the alternatives of hospital or custodial care – not to mention the improvement in individual life chances, which is something you cannot put a price on.
“SFHA will shortly publish further research on the impact of the LHA cap, and we would urge the government to think again and think very carefully about how best to sustain these services which give such a huge benefit to the community we all live in.”
1. Motion S5M-01252: Christina McKelvie, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/09/2016
Blue Triangle's 20th Anniversary: That the Parliament congratulates the Blue Triangle Housing Association in Hamilton on its 20th anniversary; notes that the association assists, accommodates and supports homeless people to achieve better lives; notes that the association has assisted a remarkable 600 service users into sustainable accommodation over the 20-year period; further congratulates the staff on their hard work and determination in providing people with the skills and knowledge to succeed in securing employment and permanent housing tenancy; believes that the organisation has played a vital role in improving the life chances of all its service users, and wishes Blue Triangle every success for the future.
Motion S5M-01242: Tom Arthur, Renfrewshire South, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/09/2016
30 Years of Barrhead Housing Association: That the Parliament congratulates Barrhead Housing Association on its 30th anniversary; recognises the impeccable work carried out by the association in the area since its formation in 1986, such as providing many families in the community with sheltered and wheelchair housing; further recognises the exceptional progress that the association has made, housing over 923 residents, compared with 750 10 years ago; commends the association's exemplary community focus, which has made sure that residents are receiving quality services, with fair prices; congratulates it on a successful 80s-themed anniversary party for members of the community, and wishes the association the best of luck in all future projects.
- Estimates based on data collated by the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) https://www.scottishhousingregulator.gov.uk/
- Capping social housing rents: the impact on refuges in Scotland, SWA 2015 http://www.scottishwomensaid.org.uk/sites/www.scottishwomensaid.org.uk/files/Housing%20briefing.pdf
- The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) was established in 1975 and has around 120 members providing affordable housing and wider community services across Scotland, as well as a further 200 commercial associates. The SFHA is owned and governed by its members and exists to lead, represent and support the work of housing associations and co-operatives throughout Scotland www.sfha.co.uk
- The SFHA is the voice of the principal builders and managers of new affordable housing for rent in Scotland. Housing associations own and manage around 40% of the country’s affordable rented housing stock, over a quarter of a million homes across Scotland.
- Housing associations and co-operatives are not-for-profit bodies regulated by the Scottish Housing Regulator.