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Scottish Parliament Holds Debate Communal Tenement Property (Maintenance)

Blog by David Stewart, SFHA Policy Lead

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A debate was held at Holyrood yesterday into an issue of increasing concern – repairs and quality standards in Scotland’s traditional stone tenements.

The debate, introduced by Ben MacPherson MSP, was well attended – reflecting the extent of concern from constituents across Scotland.  

The issue has become an increasing concern for housing associations recently. While associations were at the forefront of work to rehabilitate and improve tenements in the 1970s and 80s, improving housing standards and protecting an essential part of Scotland’s heritage, we hear that it is often a challenge to repair and improve tenements in mixed ownership. 

At the most basic level, owners might struggle to get agreement and payment for roof repairs. Some social landlords are selectively selling flats where they are the minority owner in a stair and struggle to meet the Social Housing Quality Standard (SHQS), as they can’t get consent to improvements from other owners.

The scale of the problem is potentially huge – just under a quarter of our homes are tenement flats, with 218,000 pre-1919 stone tenements.

During the debate, a number of potential solutions were discussed. These include a proposal developed by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) for a mandatory five-yearly Tenement Health Check to identify disrepair. Proposals for a requirement for tenement owners to pay into a sinking fund for major repairs – just as housing associations make provisions for future major repairs – was also raised.

Another potential solution, which SFHA supports, is to have a Common Housing Quality Standard for homes of all tenures – similar to the SHQS. This would help protect existing homes, protect owners’ assets and safeguard a key part of Scotland’s built environment.  

The importance of the issue, and the complexity of the challenge, is reflected in the fact that the debate ran for an additional 30 minutes. As a result of the debate agreement has been secured to set up a cross party working group to address the issue, and SFHA look forwards to engaging with the group and providing evidence on the challenges faced and potential solutions on behalf of our members.