Housing, energy efficiency and welfare feature high on SNP manifesto

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon

The SNP has unveiled plans for 50,000 new affordable homes, a Warm Homes Bill to help tackle fuel poverty and a social security system based on dignity and respect should it win the upcoming Holyrood election.

Unveiling its manifesto for re-election yesterday, party leader Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP will invest over £3 billion over the next parliament to deliver at least 50,000 new affordable houses, of which at least 35,000 will be houses for social rent, and will also continue to support council house building.

Other housing policies include plans to:

  • Support a further 5,000 households – including 2,000 first time buyers on modest incomes – into home ownership through the Help to Buy and Shared Equity schemes. This will be supported by an initial investment of £160 million in 2016/17.
  • Maintain the Land & Building Transaction Tax (LBTT) to support first time buyers.
  • Encourage councils and individuals to bring empty homes into use for rent or purchase through the Empty Homes Partnership, Empty Homes Fund and Town Centre Empty Homes Fund. This will concentrate on rural areas in need of increased housing and town centres that can be rejuvenated and regenerated through such initiatives.
  • Encourage communities to buy property and land that is in a state of neglect through community empowerment legislation and by accessing the Community Empowerment Fund.
  • Offer housing health checks for all tenants in the social rented sector to help people to consider the best housing options for them.
  • Provide guidance and timescales for installing affordable accessible housing adaptations for disabled people, or for those who have developed mobility or other disabilities, where they are needed.
  • Consult on a national standard for private rented homes to ensure a good basic standard of accommodation, driving out rogue landlords who exploit tenants in sub-standard accommodation.
  • Improve tenant participation in the management of their homes and use a partner organisation to help tenants become more aware of their rights and be more involved in the management of properties. This will include placing a duty on Housing Associations and councils to consult with tenants on the management of homes.
  • Invest £25m in rural housing supporting more people to live and work in rural economies.
  • The manifesto pledges to bring forward a Planning Reform Bill based on the recommendations of the Planning Review due in the summer. The aim of which is to streamline development planning and management procedures and practices to remove unnecessary blockages and delays. Amendments will also be made to the Planning Obligations in order to stop unnecessary delays to projects.

    It also includes plans to make existing homes more energy efficient to cut bills, reduce emissions and improve health.

    The party plans to tackle fuel poverty with an initial investment of £103 million in 2016/17 to install energy efficiency measures in a further 14,000 homes. It will prioritise the development of the district heating system and establish a loan fund for this purpose.

    The SNP also plans to introduce a Warm Homes Bill in the next parliament.

    Other energy efficiency proposals include plans to:

    • Work with stakeholders to review the fuel poverty action plan, including the fuel poverty eradication target.
    • Assess whether smaller and rural businesses are able to compete on an even playing field for energy efficient measures.
    • Consult on the best way to help owner occupied houses reach energy efficient standards through a mix of grants and low cost loans. It will also consult on regulating energy efficiency in the private rented sector to ensure tenants are getting the best value for the money they spend on bills.
    • Raise the profile of fuel poverty schemes that are available.
    • Ensure Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme (SEEP) fuel poverty measures are targeting those people living in poverty.
    • To tackle long-term homelessness, the SNP said it will continue to develop a joined up approach between local government, health, social services and the third sector.

      By the end of the next parliament the party will ensure that all temporary accommodation is the same standard as permanent accommodation. It will also introduce a cap of one week for families with children and pregnant women living in B&B accommodation unless there are exceptional circumstances.

      The SNP has also pledged to restore Housing Benefit for 18-21 year olds if the UK government goes ahead with plans to remove it.

      On welfare the party plans to invest more than £200 million to make social security fairer and will introduce a Scottish Social Security Bill in the first year of the next parliament.

      It will increase the Carer’s Allowance so that it matches Jobseekers Allowance and maintain the Winter Fuel Payment for pensioners and establish a new Scottish Social Security Agency to administer devolved benefits.

      The SNP will maintain the level of disability benefits and make the process of assessment fairer and abolish the ‘bedroom tax’ as soon as it has the power to do so.

      Other key proposals in the manifesto include:

      • Additional investment of almost £2bn in Scotland’s NHS over the next five years, £500m more than inflation by the end of the Parliament, with more money going to social, primary and community care;
      • Investment to double childcare to 30 hours a week for all 3 & 4 year olds and vulnerable 2 year olds;
      • A commitment to lift 100,000 small businesses out of business rates completely, ensuring Scotland remains a competitive place to do business;
      • A national drive to increase innovation and productivity.
      • National homelessness charity Crisis welcomed the focus on homelessness, particularly on protecting support for young people, but warned there is still much to do to arrest the growing number of homeless people stuck in unsuitable temporary accommodation.

        Crisis chief executive, Jon Sparkes, said: “We are pleased to see the SNP’s manifesto reflect the importance of tackling and preventing homelessness. We warmly welcome their commitment to protect housing benefit for 18-21’s and look forward to working with them to address the themes identified in our own Manifesto to End Homelessness.

        “Measures to improve support for people in temporary accommodation – including making temporary accommodation the same standard as permanent accommodation and limiting the maximum stay in B&Bs to one week for families with children - are certainly very encouraging, but do not address the rising number of single homeless people stuck in temporary accommodation with their lives on hold, often for months at a time.

        “The next Scottish Government must extend time limits in unsuitable temporary accommodation to all homeless people. We need to ensure homeless people have swift access to suitable, permanent housing and we look forward to working with the SNP to achieve this.”

        The Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Greens and the Scottish Liberal Democrats have already launched their manifestos, with Scottish Labour still to unveil theirs.

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