GWSF manifesto highlights importance of community controlled housing associations

GWSFInvesting in and protecting community controlled housing associations (CCHAs) will help them continue to contribute to a wide range of Scottish Government agendas, according to the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF).

Launching its manifesto for the Scottish Election, GWSF said its members stand ready to play their part in providing new homes, helping tackle poor tenemental housing and, as community anchors, providing or facilitating a wide range of key local services.

The manifesto lists nine proposals which GWSF sees as essential to support CCHAs’ crucial work going forward.

1. Investment in new homes

The Scottish Government should work towards an Affordable Housing Supply Programme target of 12,000 new affordable homes per year, with at least two thirds being homes for social rent.

2. Forced sale of vacant and derelict land

The Scottish Government should move as quickly as possible to implement measures in the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill on the compulsory sale of vacant and derelict land in urban areas.

3. Tackling poor tenement housing in the private sector

Funding for tenemental acquisition and improvement should be explicitly encouraged within the Affordable Housing Supply Programme where this brings private housing into social or affordable housing tenures.

Following delays in 2015, the Scottish Government should introduce as quickly as possible its proposed scheme of equity loans for tenement owners.

4. Support for community anchor bodies

The Scottish Government should demonstrate its continued support for CCHAs as community anchor bodies by increasing the amount of regeneration funding directly accessible by local organisations. In particular, the much valued People and Communities Fund should be maximised so that local services developed with and for local communities can flourish.

The Scottish Government should introduce capital development grants for community organisations which wish to provide halls and other facilities requiring capital expenditure.

5. Keeping housing associations independent

In conjunction with the housing association sector, the Scottish Government should take all possible steps to reduce the likelihood of the UK Government reclassifying Scottish housing associations as public bodies.

6. Ensuring the regulation of housing associations is proportionate

The Scottish Government should work with GWSF and other bodies to ensure that the overall regulatory burden on housing associations is sensible and proportionate to the actual risks and challenges faced.

The legislation governing the regulatory framework should be amended to make provision for a fully independent appeals process against decisions made by the Scottish Housing Regulator.

The Freedom of Information provisions should not be extended to housing associations without the fullest consideration being given to the impact, particularly on smaller associations.

7. Raising housing’s profile among health and social care bodies

The Scottish Government should continue to raise the profile of housing among the new joint health and social care bodies and, in particular, the crucial role of preventative services in helping people stay at home for as long as possible.

8. Regulation of the private rented sector

The Scottish Government should establish an independent national body to oversee the regulation of private sector landlords.

9. New Scottish Government powers over Universal Credit

The Scottish Government should move as quickly as it can to bring into force its proposed new powers over the housing element of Universal Credit. In particular, on top of the abolition of the bedroom tax, it should ensure that support with housing costs can be paid directly to social landlords.

GWSF chair Peter Howden said: “Our message to the next administration is that we’re here to work with you. Community controlled housing associations have a great track record of building high quality affordable housing, are highly responsive landlords and provide a broad range of local services which help regenerate their communities.

“It means we want to work with central and local government to ensure that CCHAs play their full part in providing new housing. Scale isn’t everything, especially if we’re talking about regeneration being genuinely led by communities.

“And, not least in the face of increasing cuts to local authority services, our members are looking to much-prized funding sources such as the People and Communities Fund to help provide innovative services which help plug gaps left by the statutory agencies. Maximising this Fund over the next five years will produce fantastic value for local communities and for the Scottish Government.

“We’ll also look to the next administration to offer every support it can to help us tackle any UK-instigated threat to the independence of housing associations in Scotland. Yes, we perform activities of a public nature and sometimes with public funding, but our associations are run by voluntary board members and are a long way off being public bodies.”

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