Blog: Scotland has a housing crisis and it demands radical solutions
It’s vital that Scottish Labour goes into next year’s Holyrood elections with a bold and ambitious manifesto, writes Richard Baker MSP.
Few issues need ambition more in Scotland than housing. With 150,000 people currently on waiting lists and private landlords pocketing more than £450m in housing benefit, there is a housing crisis.
(Last) week I was inspired on a visit to the West Whitlawburn Housing Co-operative in South Lanarkshire.
Approaching its 25th birthday, the Co-op provides over 600 properties and has transformed a community. I was talked through its colourful history, with staff and committee members who have been a part of the project since day one.
Crucially, West Whitlawburn is more than just a housing provider: its community centre is a lifeline for residents without a computer who need to apply for benefits; the concierges have a personal friendship with the tenants and regularly go beyond the call of duty to lend a hand; and the tenants shape their environment through an active committee.
They have completed an impressive renovation programme, built 100 new homes and installed cutting-edge biomass fuel capacity.
It is local, caring and successful.
The national housing situation in Scotland is a different picture, however. This year, the number of completed affordable homes has dropped by nearly a quarter under the SNP.
While 10 per cent of Europeans live in housing co-ops, the figure stands at 0.6 per cent in the UK. A report by the Cooperative Development society stated that cooperative models have been “largely forgotten by UK housing policy makers”. Going into next year’s election I want Scottish Labour to return to the party of housebuilding, like we once were, and aim high on cutting waiting lists and making communities more like the one I visited in West Whitlawburn.
Scotland has a housing crisis and it demands radical solutions: and it is by putting cooperative values first that Scottish Labour can offer the change so many need.
Mr Baker is standing to be Scottish Labour’s next deputy leader.
This blog first appeared at labourlist.org.