Lib Dems pledge more homes for rent and ‘fair’ Scottish welfare system
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have set out plans to increase in housing supply by expanding the Housing Fund for Scotland model and tackle youth homelessness through mediation.
Unveiling its manifesto for next month’s Holyrood election, the party has vowed to increasing the number of affordable homes by 50,000 over the next Parliament and making sure that 40,000 of these are for social rent.
According to the party, with private housebuilding returning to pre-recession levels this will mean around 110,000 new homes will have been brought into use by 2021 with one third of those for affordable rent.
To do this the Scottish Liberal Democrats will:
- Support the continued innovation that has harnessed new forms of funding for Scottish housing and brought new types of property into use;
- Expand the Housing Fund for Scotland model that has seen investment in rented homes pioneered by a local government pension fund. This expansion to all funds will add 12,000 new homes. It work with pension fund trustees to give them the confidence of an effective return for their investment;
- Use a proportion of any future Barnett consequentials from the UK which are classed as ‘financial transactions’ to fund new housing association properties as well as help-to-buy schemes;
- Renew the empty homes strategy to bring as many of the 27,000 empty homes back into use as part of the 110,000 total of new homes – including introduction of a Help to Renovate loan;
- Work with the British Business Bank to help direct support to small and medium sized house-builders who struggle to get support from traditional banks;
- Extend existing house-building programmes by using a proportion of investment from our Fit For The Future Investment Plan.
The Lib Dems will help tackle youth homelessness through an emphasis on mediation and reconciliation with families. It will support a dozen new centres across Scotland offering supported accommodation for young people, with direct access to advice and training.
The party will require local authorities to monitor and account for the outcomes of young homeless people and take their responsibilities as ‘corporate parents’ seriously for young people leaving local authority care and not permit transfers to B&Bs and temporary accommodation for care leavers.
It will also start a new programme to help to plan now the very long-term switch from fossil fuel appliances at home and in business towards other forms of energy.
With new powers over welfare being devolved to Holyrood, the Scottish Liberal Democrats suggest a Scottish welfare system that provides a better link between social security benefits and the services provided by the Scottish Government and local councils.
This could be achieved by:
- Increasing Carers’ Benefit to bring it into line with the rate for jobseekers’ allowance.
- Making sure the bedroom tax is fully removed from the Scottish system.
- Start a pilot project to give parents of new-born babies a Finnish-style baby box containing essential items to ensure a healthy baby.
- Allow housing benefit to be paid directly to landlords and will retain the entitlement to housing benefit for those aged 18-25.
The Lib Dems’ flagship policy of a 1p increase in income tax will be used to increase investment in education, skills and mental health. Other themes include the reversal of what the party sees as over centralisation of services, particularly in areas like policing, protection of personal freedoms and tackling climate change.
On the constitution, the party make clear their opposition to a second referendum on Scottish Independence.
Party leader Willie Rennie said: “Our programme for Scotland is ambitious and progressive. We are offering the biggest investment in education since devolution, new plans for mental health services, new laws to guarantee our civil liberties and new investment so we can exceed our climate change targets.”