GWSF: Future housing policy must tackle poor privately owned housing

Helen Moore

A much more proactive approach to tackling poor privately owned housing must feature in the Scottish Government’s vision for housing in the next 20 years, according to the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF).

Responding to the Scottish Government discussion paper ‘Housing Beyond 2021’, GWSF said that whilst the 50,000 homes programme has been very welcome and can hopefully be repeated, the government cannot leave it solely to cash-strapped local authorities to deal with the growing disrepair bill in commonly owned blocks.

In its response, the Forum said that its members, along with their council landlord counterparts, are frequently frustrated in their efforts to repair and improve mixed tenure blocks. It said that the condition of many such blocks has been deteriorating for a long time now, since what was often a temporary ‘patch and repair’ fix 30 or more years ago.

And GWSF added that many fully private blocks are in even worse condition, having had little or nothing done in the way of major works since they were built.

GWSF chair Helen Moore said: “Imposing ever higher standards on the 25% of housing that is social housing, whilst ignoring the poor standards in the 75% of stock which is privately owned, is tantamount to fiddling while Rome burns.

“If it remains all too easy for owners to block works, tenants in mixed tenure blocks will lose out on repairs and improvements their rent is meant to pay for. Our town and city heritage will be further blighted and, in the end, we’ll see the threat of demolitions in some locations.

“Giving greater priority to existing stock doesn’t necessarily need to be at the expense of the new supply programme. Supporting acquisitions and buy-backs is a great way in which the investment programme can help boost social housing supply and enable associations and councils take greater control over mixed tenure blocks. In some areas supporting acquisitions could and should become a greater priority than it is at present.

“We recognise that the growing proportion of private housing that is rented out makes this issue a complex one. Politicians don’t want to be seen to be funding private profit, but we need to rethink how we both reinforce owners’ responsibilities and provide suitable carrots and sticks to enable critical works to progress and our tenement heritage to be protected.”

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