Programme for Government 2016-17 – Housing at a glance



HolyroodAfter First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government to MSPs at Holyrood yesterday, Scottish Housing News highlights the details of interest to housing associations and the wider sector.

House building

An investment of more than £3 billion for affordable housing supply over the life of the Parliament, delivering at least 50,000 homes with 35,000 of them for social rent.

The Scottish Government will work in partnership with local authorities to invest more than £572 million in affordable housing in this financial year.

Local authorities have been allocated a share of £406m grant subsidy to deliver more affordable homes for 2016-17, over £100m more than the previous year.

The Scottish Government will also continue to help people buy an affordable home through shared equity programmes.

Energy

A new Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme (SEEP) will start in 2018 with accompanying regulation to improve the energy efficiency of the building stock over the long-term. More than £0.5bn will be made available over four years. It will make homes and buildings warmer, improving health and helping tackle fuel poverty, reduce emissions, minimise energy bills and create and support a supply chain across all of Scotland supporting around 4,000 jobs a year once the programme is fully operational.

SEEP benefits include:

  • measures to make homes and places of work warmer, promoting more affordable energy for consumers, helping to tackle poverty and improve the competitiveness of the Scottish economy
  • the opportunity to create a substantial Scottish market and supply chain for energy efficiency services and technologies, with an estimated 4,000 jobs per annum across Scotland, including in remote areas, based on the estimated overall investment of up to £10bn
  • measurable health and early years improvements through people living in warmer homes
  • regeneration of communities through upgraded building stock
  • substantially reduced greenhouse gas emissions contributing to meeting climate change targets

Around £10m for domestic energy efficiency measures – helping make homes cheaper to heat and reducing the costs of energy bills for householders.

A new Energy Strategy will reaffirm the government’s commitment to reducing energy demand and supplying clean energy from renewable sources.

A consultation on the regulation of private rented sector (PRS) housing to increase efficiency standards and heat regulations commensurate with the scale of the heat market. As part of the programme the government will also consult on phased regulation of other existing buildings to bring them up to higher energy efficiency standards as well as look at financial incentives.

A Warm Homes Bill will also be introduced later in the parliament.

Planning

Following the recommendations of the recent independent planning review, immediate actions have been outlined and a Planning Bill will be brought forward early in the Parliamentary session which will commit to a strong, high-performing system that enables housing and infrastructure delivery and supports quality of life of all communities by promoting quality of place and the public interest.

Ahead of proposals for legislative change the recommendation for Simplified Planning Zones will be implemented to help attract investment and promote housing delivery. Later this year the government will work with local authorities to identify suitable locations.

It will also build on the successful, streamlined approach to planning in Enterprise Zones and will work with local authorities to speed up decisions on major projects to deliver investment and economic growth more quickly.

It will also support interim measures to modernise compulsory purchase orders in advance of legislation to ensure vacant and derelict land can be brought back into use.

ONS classification

The Housing (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill will ensure registered social landlords (RSLs) continue to be classified as private sector bodies. That classification is at risk because some of the powers of the Scottish Housing Regulator are likely to cause the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in its current review of the classification of RSLs, to classify RSLs to the public sector as public corporations.

In the event of that happening the Bill will provide the basis for the ONS to revisit its decision by:

  • removing the need for the Regulator’s consent to the disposal of assets by RSLs
  • limiting the Regulator’s ability to appoint members and managers to RSLs
  • removing the need for the Regulator’s consent to the restructuring, winding up and dissolution of RSLs

Temporary accommodation

The government will work with local government to develop an approach to temporary accommodation in the face of the UK government’s changes to the benefit structure which will lead to a shortfall in the funding arrangements.

Older people

The Age, Home and Community strategy for housing for Scotland’s older people will be refreshed in spring 2017 by building on actions already taken to support the strategy and setting out new actions to address issues of social isolation.

A National Social Isolation Strategy will be developed to ensure a holistic approach across government to problems of loneliness and isolation.

Council Tax

The rate of how Council Tax is calculated for more expensive properties in bands E-H will be changed so people in these bands pay more.

The Council Tax Reduction Scheme will be extended to protect up to an additional 54,000 low income households in bands E-H, more than a third of which are pensioners.

The Council Tax freeze will be lifted from April 2017 allowing councils to increase Council Tax across all bands by a maximum of 3 per cent, generating up to £70m.

Legislation will be introduced to allow councils to end the Council Tax discount for second homes from April 2017.

Crofting

The government will engage with crofting stakeholders this year to begin the process of drafting a National Development Plan for crofting as part of a sustainable rural economy. This will include measures to support new entrants, explore the scope to promote the creation of woodland crofts, consider support for croft housing, and ensure community-owned estates are not disadvantaged by the croft registration process. This engagement will inform a new Crofting Bill planned for later in the Parliament.

Digital

The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme, which is delivering new fibre infrastructure across Scotland, is on track to deliver fibre access to at least 95 per cent of premises in Scotland by the end of 2017; having successfully delivered the 85 per cent target six months ahead of schedule. Over 630,000 homes and businesses across Scotland now have access as a result of the programme.

Social Security

The Social Security Bill is intended to set out an over-arching legislative framework for social security in Scotland and will take forward the government’s priorities for the social security powers that are to be devolved, ahead of the establishment of a new Social Security Agency. Evidence gathered from a wide-ranging consultation on social security will inform the final content of the Bill.

Specific areas which are expected to be reflected in the Bill include:

  • fixing the Scottish Government’s principles for social security in legislation, including the principle that people should be treated with dignity and respect
  • delivering on the Scottish Government’s policy commitments, including commitments to: increase Carer’s Allowance to the level of Jobseeker’s Allowance, and replace Sure Start Maternity Grants with a new maternity and early years allowance called the Best Start Grant
  • taking a Scottish approach to important social security matters such as helping to ensure that the user’s experience reflects our principles, reviewing and appealing decisions and taking care of each individual’s information and personal data.
  • use new powers over social security to reform assessments for disability benefits, the extension of winter fuel payments to families with severely disabled children, a new enhanced Best Start Grant to replace current Sure Start Maternity Grants, and an increased Carer’s Allowance.
  • abolish the ‘bedroom tax’ as soon as possible.

Child Poverty

A Child Poverty Bill will replace the recently repealed sections of the UK Child Poverty Act 2010 concerning targets and strategies in relation to child poverty. Specifically, the Bill will enshrine in legislation the ambition to eradicate child poverty and place a duty on Scottish Ministers to publish a Child Poverty Delivery Plan every five years and to report on that plan annually.

Read the housing sector’s reaction to the Programme for Government here.



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