Housing associations celebrated at Holyrood as Westminster policy clouds gather
Renfrewshire South MSP Tom Arthur congratulated Barrhead Housing Association on its 30th anniversary, praising the exceptional work in providing housing for a wide range of needs, including sheltered and wheelchair standard housing, while Christina McKelvie, the MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, commended Blue Triangle Housing Association for 20 years of work which have seen it help over 600 homeless people in Hamilton to make the transition to employment and permanent housing tenancy.
The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), which counts both housing associations among its members, echoed this praise but sounded a note of caution about the effect on some of Scotland’s most vulnerable social housing tenants of current UK government social security policy.
SFHA chief executive Mary Taylor said: “Barrhead and Blue Triangle Housing Associations are fantastic examples of the range of service and support provided to the community by our members. Barrhead provides a range of high quality accommodation in its local community, not only for general needs but for some of the more vulnerable, including a 12-person homeless project. Blue Triangle’s activities across nine local authority areas are specifically targeted at offering particularly vulnerable people, the homeless, those under threat of homelessness and those who have a looked after or accommodated background, helping them improve their employability prospects and life chances.”
Mary Taylor added: “Unfortunately, both services are under threat from the UK government’s policies of the overall benefit cap and of capping Housing Benefit at Local Housing Allowance (LHA) levels, rendering projects like those carried out by Blue Triangle, Barrhead, and a host of other associations across Scotland, financially unsustainable. Depending on their level of need, future vulnerable tenants seeking the type of support Blue Triangle offers could face shortfalls in the money they receive to pay their rent of between £150 and £260 per week.
“Only last week, Scottish Women’s Aid highlighted the threat from the LHA cap to refuges for those suffering domestic violence. The cost of providing intensive services inevitably lead to higher rents but still represent far greater value for money and a saving to the public purse than the alternatives of hospital or custodial care – not to mention the improvement in individual life chances, which is something you cannot put a price on.
“SFHA will shortly publish further research on the impact of the LHA cap, and we would urge the government to think again and think very carefully about how best to sustain these services which give such a huge benefit to the community we all live in.”