MSPs press Scottish Government on impact of COVID-19 on housing issues
Holyrood’s local government and communities committee has written to the Scottish Government regarding its response to COVID-19 and how it has impacted on issues such as homelessness, housebuilding, energy efficiency and short-term lets.
In the letter, committee convenor James Dornan MSP asks cabinet secretary Aileen Campbell MSP for detailed information on all items of legislation and all major programmes within her remit which are delayed due to COVID-19, together with information as to what contingency plans (if any) are in place.
While acknowledging that any contingency plans may depend on how quickly it is possible to lift social distancing measures, which remains very uncertain, Mr Dornan said the information would help provide a complete picture of just what the impact has been, which he expects others beside the committee may find useful.
Earlier this month, a letter from the Scottish Government’s chief planner John McNairney and minister for local government, housing and planning Kevin Stewart said that National Planning Framework 4, which was due for publication for September 2020, is likely now to be delayed until 2021. It said that this would also impact on the implementation of the Planning Act and planning reforms.
Mr Dornan asks: “In view of the importance of planning, it would be helpful to know if the Scottish Government considered whether there were aspects of NPF4 and other planning reforms that could be taken forward even in the current climate.”
The letter also stated that the Scottish Government has paused its commitment to consult on regulations in relation to the arrangements for designating Short-Term Let Control Areas this spring.
Mr Dornan added: “Some committee members noted that whilst many bodies will be being badly stretched by the current emergency, others might be in a position to respond to a consultation and queried whether the Scottish Government had considered running the consultation but with a longer response period.”
On homelessness, Mr Dornan wrote: “A letter from Mr Stewart on 21 April 2020 stated that the Scottish Government ‘is currently unable to consult on the Ministerial Statement on local connection, as outlined at Action 33 of the Ending Homelessness Action Plan: Annual Report’, the original deadline being November 2020. We further note that the last programme for government (September 2019), the Government committed to pass legislation by May 2021 to extend the Unsuitable Accommodation Order to everyone. Is the government still on track in relation to these two important policies?”
The committee also noted Mr Stewart’s decision to delay the introduction of the Energy Efficiency (Domestic Private Rented Property) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 until October 1 and said it would be useful to receive an outline of what impact the pause in the housebuilding industry has had on the Scottish Government’s plan to deliver 50,000 affordable homes by 2021.
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