Alex Rowley sets out housebuilding action plan

Alex Rowley
Alex Rowley

Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Alex Rowley has detailed a series of steps he believes the Scottish Government should take “sooner rather than later” to address the housing shortage.

Speaking at a business breakfast in Dunfermline yesterday, the MSP for Cowdenbeath indicated that he backed the SNP’s commitment to ensure 50,000 homes are built for rent over the course of the next parliament.

According to The Herald, the former Fife Council leader admitted he recognised the challenge the pledge presents and urged the Scottish Government to empower local authorities to take the lead.

Before setting out his plan Mr Rowley pointed to statistics which show that Scottish councils received more than 35,000 homelessness applications between April 2014 and March 2015, while 150,000 households were on local authority housing waiting lists on March 31 this year.

Mr Rowley said: “This morning I have written to the housing minster in Scotland setting out a number of steps that need to be taken sooner rather than later to ensure that we move house building forward at a pace that is needed to address the housing shortage whilst at the same time provide training, much needed skills and jobs.

“Nicola Sturgeon confirmed to Parliament last week that her party is committed to building 50,000 houses for rent in the life of the next Parliament. My own party supports this but as I found out in Fife when the council committed to building 2,700 houses over 5 years there are many barriers such as planning, supply of land and a the gap in skills and supply of materials.

“I am therefore asking the government to set up a partnership with local government to drive a national plan for house building into each local authority area; carry out an audit of all land within the public sector in Scotland; and require each local authority area to establish a ‘Housing Board’ that will work with developers to oversee and deliver new house building in each area, will consult with local communities, and will begin the planning process for establishing mixed housing developments that will deliver both public and private sector housing across Scotland.

“Housing is one area which we can and should address now for the gap between housing need and supply is bad for people and bad for our economy. It drive up prices and inflate rents in the private sector.”

In his speech delivered to Fife business leaders yesterday, Mr Rowley said housebuilding brings huge economic benefits.

“15,562 new homes were built in Scotland in 2014 which created £3.2 billion gross value added to the economy, supported 63,260 jobs in the industry including 380 apprenticeships, 200 graduates and over 1000 12 to 24-year-olds employed,” he told an audience at CR Smith in Dunfermline.

“If we can increase the supply to pre-recession levels of 25,000 homes per year, this would generate a £1.9bn increase in economic output with 38,000 extra jobs, £84 million more tax paid nationally and over £50m investment in local infrastructure.”

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