beta

You're viewing our new website - find out more

Publication - Publication

Homes Fit for the 21st Century: the Scottish Government's strategy and action plan for housing in the next decade 2011-2020

Published: 4 Feb 2011
Part of:
Housing
ISBN:
978-0-7559-9920

Policy paper sets out our vision for housing for the coming decade, focusing on the new supply, choice and quality of homes.

59 page PDF

1.5MB

59 page PDF

1.5MB

Contents
Homes Fit for the 21st Century: the Scottish Government's strategy and action plan for housing in the next decade 2011-2020
Part 2 Choice and Quality

59 page PDF

1.5MB

Part 2 Choice and Quality

Summary

82 In addition to boosting supply, there is much more that can be done to enhance choice and quality within the housing system. We will adopt a tenure neutral approach, seeking sustainable choices for all rather than encouraging one particular tenure, and promoting mixed tenure communities.

83 Scotland needs a diverse housing system. We will act to support sustainable home ownership, to strengthen the private rented sector, and to boost intermediate tenures. We will also continue to support social housing and to invest in expanding it. Our second strategic objective is:

To maximise the sustainable housing options available across all tenures, including for people living on lower incomes, and to significantly improve the quality of the existing housing stock and the places we create.

Sustainable housing

84 We will develop a Strategy for Sustainable Housing in Scotland to put people at the heart of how we create sustainable communities for the long-term and meet our climate change objectives.

Social housing

85 Social housing is a vital part of the system, providing secure affordable housing for those who need it most. We will establish a Scottish Social Housing Charter, which will set the outcomes that social landlords should be aiming to achieve for their tenants, for homeless people and for other customers. The Charter will also focus the work of the new Scottish Housing Regulator. We will shortly be publishing a discussion document about the Charter.

86 We reject the new approach emerging in England, where the UK Government will no longer invest in new social housing.

87 Similarly, we oppose aspects of the benefit reforms being pursued by the UK Government, especially restrictions to Housing Benefit which will reduce choice. Regrettably, until policy on Housing Benefit and other benefits is devolved to Scotland, these changes will apply here.

88 The excessive discounts still available to tenants with the pre-2002 "preserved" right-to-buy are unjustifiable. We will consult on ways to reform the preserved right-to-buy, to make it fair for both tenant and landlord.

89 Social landlords are already working to achieve the Scottish Housing Quality Standard ( SHQS) for all their homes by 2015. After discussion with landlords and others, we will introduce a new social housing standard in 2012, requiring higher levels of energy efficiency by 2020.

Owner occupation, intermediate tenures and private renting

90 Mortgages are key to the recovery and stability of the owner occupied sector. We have called on the UK Government and the Financial Services Authority to support lending to credit-worthy buyers. We will also work with new and existing lenders to encourage more flexible mortgage arrangements in Scotland.

91 We will seek improvements in the quality of existing housing, requiring action from owners, as well as social and private landlords.

92 We will widen tenure options, through an expansion of shared equity and intermediate renting, to enhance choice and social mobility.

93 We will work with the PRS Strategy Group to create a development strategy aimed at growing and improving the private rented sector, supported by a more focussed regulatory system.

Advice and information

94 With wider options comes a greater need for information, to help people make housing choices that are right for them. There is much more that can be done to make better use of existing housing stock, simply by giving people better information and advice about the options open to them.

95 Councils and their partners are already developing the " Housing Options" approach, whereby those at risk of homelessness or on housing lists are given expert advice on the choices open to them, to enable their housing needs to be resolved.

96 We will expand the Housing Options approach to provide " housing health checks" for more people, especially social tenants who feel that their home no longer suits them. Landlords should enable tenants to review their options to move within or beyond the social housing sector. But the choice to move will remain with the tenant.

Social landlords

97 We will give greater flexibility to social landlords to meet needs and to build strong communities. We will consult on changes to legislation to remove constraints on housing associations and councils: making it easier for them to provide shared equity and intermediate rent properties alongside social homes; adjusting aspects of the tenancy rules such as succession rights; and enabling landlords to adapt their allocations policies to best meet local needs.

98 But priority must still be given to unintentionally homeless applicants, who from December 2012 will have the right to settled accommodation. And we will act on the recommendations of the Cross Sector Supported Accommodation Working Group, to provide better support for groups at particular risk of homelessness, including young people.

Energy efficiency

99 We will promote energy efficiency across all tenures. This will involve working with partners to boost the green industries in Scotland and ensuring that UK-wide and Scottish Government funding schemes are effectively targeted to meet our targets on fuel poverty (by 2016) and energy consumption and carbon emissions (by 2020). We will work with landlords to take advantage of opportunities under the Feed-in Tariff and Green Deal schemes.

Introduction

100 We will adopt a tenure neutral approach, seeking sustainable and affordable options for all across the range of tenures, rather than promoting any one tenure for its own sake. We want to create a fairer and more stable housing system that gives people a wider range of sustainable choices, irrespective of their income levels: a choice of comfortable, warm and affordable homes that cater for different needs; different tenure options including for ownership and rent; and the ability to move between tenures as circumstances change.

101 For many in Scotland, however, especially those on lower incomes, an attractive set of housing options is not yet on offer. The pressure on the housing system is evident in many ways:

  • In many council areas, demand for social housing far outstrips the availability of new lets, with around 140,000 households on housing lists across Scotland. 26
  • There is even greater pressure on homes suitable for older people and for disabled people, with the number of pensioner households requiring an adaptation expected to increase from 66,300 (2008) to 88,000 by 2023 and 106,000 by 2033. 27
  • There is a lack of good quality private rented accommodation in many parts of Scotland - 86% of Private Rented Sector ( PRS) properties in Scotland have some disrepair. 28
  • Because of the fundamental shift in the mortgage market, many who wish to are unable to become home owners. The number of first time buyers has fallen from 38,600 in 2006 to 17,900 in 2009. 29
  • In March 2010, there were 10,815 households in temporary accommodation. 30

102 The best way to improve choice is to increase the supply of housing, and our action plan to achieve this is set out in Part 1. However, there is also much that can be done within the existing stock. This Part sets out our vision for a housing system that responds to people's needs and offers a wide range of sustainable and quality choices.

103 This Part also describes how landlords and householders can be helped to invest in the quality of existing homes, particularly their energy efficiency. Investing in the quality of our homes and neighbourhoods will provide long-term benefits and more sustainable communities.

Sustainable Housing

104 Sustainability is about much more than promoting energy efficiency and tackling climate change - though these issues are key. Creating sustainable, high quality homes and places means ensuring that a wide range of social, economic and environmental issues are reflected in our policies for housing and the built environment. High quality, energy efficient homes must sit within communities that are socially and economically sustainable in the long-term.

105 We will publish a report on the Scottish Sustainable Communities Initiative highlighting good practice in the design and development of sustainable places. Building on this, we will develop a Strategy for Sustainable Housing in Scotland in 2012. This will bring together our policies - on climate change, energy efficiency, fuel poverty and planning and the built environment - that contribute to the development of sustainable housing and communities. In preparing our strategy we will work with stakeholders and draw on a range of resources seeking to maximise funding opportunities from the EU and the UK Government.

Social Housing

106 For many generations, and for many people, councils and housing associations have provided good quality, secure homes at an affordable rent. 31 Tenants have been provided with the stability they need to contribute to their local communities.

107 A secure tenancy at an affordable rent should remain the core offer for new and existing social tenants. The reward for finding employment should not be higher rents or insecurity in tenure, but a higher standard of living and a wider range of affordable housing options.

108 We therefore reject the approach taken in England, where there will be no Government funding to build new homes for social tenancies, and new stock will be available on shorter-term tenancies at a higher cost. This will penalise successful tenants and weaken communities, and it is contrary to our vision for housing. We will continue to invest in new social housing and to prioritise affordability.

109 Whilst agreeing the need to encourage people to move from welfare to work, we also oppose the UK Government's planned reforms to Housing Benefit. Although many details of their proposals are yet to be made clear, the initial proposals are unfair and will narrow tenants' choices. It is neither fair nor effective, during a prolonged economic downturn, to deduct 10% of Housing Benefit from social tenants who are long-term unemployed and claim Job Seekers Allowance. The likely consequences of these plans will be higher rent arrears and more evictions, rather than improved employment prospects.

110 It is also counter-productive to penalise families and individuals for under-occupying social homes if there is no smaller accommodation for them to move into. We will uphold the principle of the Scottish Secure Tenancy. Downsizing incentive schemes will continue to be at tenants' discretion rather than enforced, as many respondents to the housing discussion emphasised.

Tenants rejected any notion of compulsory moves for tenants who were "under occupying" a home - tenants should always be able to stay in their home if they wished. They also noted that too often there were no suitable smaller homes in their neighbourhood.
Central Scotland Tenants Event

111 To strengthen the social housing sector, we have already acted to remove the right-to-buy ( RTB) for new homes and new tenants, and we will take action to further restrict the RTB. While the RTB has provided new options for households over the last 30 years, the costs of this policy will now fall on future generations. The transfer of hundreds of thousands of properties out of the social housing sector has decreased our social housing stock, and placed increasing pressures on councils and housing associations. It has also had a profound and detrimental effect on some communities, with less desirable areas now even more marginalised. At the same time, many of those who exercised their right-to-buy have struggled to meet the costs of home ownership.

[Some areas] are places no one wants to live - everyone is out of work and many people have problems in the same neighbourhood - this was caused by right to buy.
Participant in a session organised by HUG - Action for Mental Health Group in Highlands

112 The discounts of up to 70% under the "preserved" (pre-2002) right-to-buy scheme are unjustifiable. They leave social landlords out of pocket, leading to pressures on rents for remaining tenants and an eroded asset base. Under current legislation, some 230,000 tenants still have the preserved right. A study by the University of York 32 has shown that these discounts are excessive in comparison with the lesser discount under the "modernised" RTB. We will consult on ways to remove the excessive features of the preserved right-to-buy.

113 We are committed to ensuring that all social housing properties meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standard ( SHQS) by April 2015. Social landlords have made steady progress towards the SHQS so that homes are free from serious disrepair, warmer and more energy efficient, healthier and more secure for residents. This progress needs to be maintained, and we will shortly publish guidance to help landlords target their implementation of SHQS investment activity effectively. This guidance, developed after consultations with landlords and the Scottish Housing Regulator, will provide opportunities for landlords to save up to £1 billion from their budgeted costs.

Sustainable Home Ownership

114 Home ownership is the largest tenure in Scotland today and remains the aspiration of the majority. A strong and sustainable home ownership sector supports stable communities and reduces pressure on affordable housing, as well as aiding the house-building and home improvement industries. Our aim to increase choice and options for all therefore includes supporting sustainable home ownership. 33

115 However, the home ownership sector currently faces considerable challenges, mainly because there has been a major and long-term decline in the availability and accessibility of mortgages. The impact of the credit crunch has left many unable to access home ownership or to move home. Low interest rates may also mask future affordability issues.

116 Regulation of lending is currently reserved to Westminster. While there is clearly a case for stronger regulation of mortgage lending and more sustainable practices, it is essential that the UK Government develops policies which enable the mortgage sector and the housebuilding sector to recover, and that the Financial Services Authority ( FSA) ensures that its regulation is proportionate and balanced. We have called on the FSA 34 to ensure that its forthcoming proposals on responsible lending strike the right balance, outlawing irresponsible practice without preventing credit-worthy buyers from getting a mortgage, or trapping existing homeowners into unsustainable and unsuitable products.

We believe that future funding remains the key challenge facing the mortgage lending and related industries. Without an adequate supply of funding, many responsible consumers will be unable to meet their housing aspirations…
Council of Mortgage Lenders

117 We will encourage new funders to enter the mortgage market in the coming years, but in the meantime we will develop new approaches to lending so that people's needs can be met.

118 We will work with house-builders, lenders (including credit unions) and the UK Government to help identify effective new forms of mortgage product which can provide funds for responsible first time buyers without putting the banks at risk through sub-prime lending. New forms of mortgage indemnity schemes are beginning to emerge for new-build properties and, depending on developments in the wider lending environment, could become more widely available within the next 2 years. We will work with the Council of Mortgage Lenders and Homes for Scotland to explore the extent to which the Scottish Government can support the development of these initiatives, and to address the barriers to their wider use.

119 At the same time, we will encourage measures that improve the quality of existing homes. Our drive to achieve this could be enhanced if the UK Government agrees to our request that refurbishments to homes should attract VAT at only 5%.

120 Home owners (and private landlords) have an important role to play in maintaining the quality of both their own properties and, by extension, the surrounding place. We will ensure that property owners are aware of those responsibilities and receive appropriate support in fulfilling them, by continuing to encourage local authorities to make use of their powers to assist owners in looking after their properties, including enforcement action where necessary. For some owners, equity release will be an appropriate mechanism to fund such improvements.

121 As more people make use of the Home Report system when moving house, the level of knowledge of condition and energy efficiency of privately owned properties will also be increased, helping people to make better decisions about the quality of their homes. 35

122 The maintenance of common parts of private dwellings and open space on housing estates are important issues. Well designed and maintained open space can increase well-being, although it remains important to secure value for money when open space is maintained. We support consumer choice in relation to land maintenance on private housing estates. 36 With regard to common parts of residential buildings and related land, we are also supportive of the consumer focused aims of the Property Factors (Scotland) Bill, and will implement the provisions in this Bill if passed by Parliament.

Expanding the intermediate tenures

123 We set out in Part 1 the need for intermediate tenures such as shared equity and intermediate rent to provide options for those unable to access home ownership or social housing. A substantial expansion in these tenures will also be essential to provide choice and flexibility for families and individuals.

124 Shared equity provides a means for people to access owner occupation, and for many it will be a route to outright ownership. Intermediate rent may also be a transitional tenure, allowing people to save for a deposit. For others it may be a long-term solution providing quality rented accommodation at a price they can afford.

The private rented sector

125 The private rented sector ( PRS) already accounts for 10% of all housing in Scotland, thus making a significant contribution to meeting housing need. It offers a good alternative to social housing or home ownership for many people, particularly those who value its flexibility. We will work with the PRS Strategy Group to create a development strategy aimed at growing and improving the private rented sector.

A [private rented] sector which enjoyed a higher reputation and offered greater stability - to tenants as well as investors - would be in a stronger position.
Shelter Scotland

126 We will create a more focused regulatory system for the PRS targeted at those areas and landlords who give tenants a poor deal and tarnish the image of the sector. We are already taking action through our Private Rented Housing Bill and our review of the landlord registration system will lead to further improvements.

127 Private rented tenants will be particularly hard hit by the UK Government's initial changes to Housing Benefit, which threaten our aim of increasing affordable choices for families and our efforts to reduce homelessness. This year, changes in Housing Benefit are being introduced which will hit around 55,000 Scottish tenants, 37 restricting household income and increasing their risk of homelessness. Poorer tenants will be priced out of the more expensive areas, leading to greater social divisions and jeopardising the creation of mixed communities. Restrictions in benefit for claimants of Job Seekers Allowance, and for single people between the ages of
25 and 35, are likely to be particularly damaging in Scotland. We will therefore continue to oppose these measures and demand that control over Housing Benefit policy in Scotland be transferred to the Scottish Parliament, enabling us to take a different and more progressive approach to meet the needs of our people.

128 For the private and socially rented sectors, a focus on quality must consider services by landlords as well as the fabric of the building. Our new approach to regulation of the social sector is set out at paragraph 148. We also want to see a thriving PRS which provides flexibility and choice for tenants and offers good standards of stock and management quality. To improve landlords' and tenants' knowledge of their rights and responsibilities, our Private Rented Housing Bill will require private landlords to give tenants an information pack, or an equivalent set of documents, at the start of every tenancy.

Choice and Options

129 The expansion of intermediate rental properties and our focus on the quality of the private rented sector are part of our overall drive to provide a range of housing choices for people.

130 We have already taken several steps to improve information about housing choices, ranging from introducing Home Reports for those considering house purchase, to encouraging social landlords to introduce common housing registers ( CHRs) for those seeking social housing. A CHR in each local authority area remains an essential starting point for improving fairness and access for tenants. The evidence also shows that choice-based letting schemes, where applicants choose which vacant properties they wish to bid for, not only improve options for social tenants but lead to more sustainable tenancies, benefitting landlords too. CHRs which offer choice-based lettings should become the norm across Scotland as we move forward.

We are … demonstrating through our pathfinder choice-based letting system, that our customers appreciate being able to express interest in particular properties. Research has shown that those who were successful in obtaining a property were more likely to be satisfied with their home and neighbourhood and more likely to sustain their tenancy.
Glasgow Housing Association

131 Similarly, it is vital that those facing homelessness or the risk of becoming homeless have information about the choices available to them. We will consult on how housing support, required under our Housing (Scotland) Act 2010, can best be provided by councils and their partners. We are committed to achieving the statutory target that from December 2012 onwards, all unintentionally homeless will be entitled to settled accommodation.

Housing Options

132 A key part of our work with councils to ensure progress towards the 2012 target has been the development of the Housing Options approach, which has so far been mainly targeted at preventing homelessness and responding to those who present as homeless (see page 39). People in this position are given expert assistance to assess their situation, to understand the choices open to them, and to resolve their housing needs, in many cases before the point of crisis is reached.

Prevention of Homelessness - North Ayrshire Council

North Ayrshire Council ( NAC) was facing a challenge in terms of homelessness with increasing numbers of households applying as homeless, high levels of repeat homelessness and having to make extensive use of bed and breakfast accommodation.

The council reviewed its practice to ensure that the entire service looked at the prevention of homelessness first and identified the housing options available for people that could lead to more sustainable outcomes. NAC continued its rent deposit guarantee service, developed its tenancy support service (with a particular focus on preventing homelessness among young people), and enhanced its outreach service.

This has led to decreasing homelessness applications and reduced repeat homelessness rates. The council is no longer having to rely on bed and breakfast accommodation and is reducing its use of temporary accommodation. It is also able to do faster homelessness assessments and give a better service to homeless households.

133 To help local authorities and their partners develop this approach we launched a £500,000 Housing Options enabling fund in June 2010. All 32 local authorities are taking a collaborative and innovative approach, working together through five "hubs", committed to preventing homelessness and improving choice.

I have been on lists for years and all I get is a letter once a year saying 'do you still want to be on our list?' Nothing ever comes up.
Participant in a session organised by HUG - Action for Mental Health Group in Highlands

134 The initial successes of the Housing Options initiative demonstrate that much more can be done to improve the use of existing stock, simply by ensuring that people have proper, realistic advice about the options open to them. This applies to those facing crises such as the prospect of homelessness, but it also applies to people at various stages of life as their housing needs change and develop. We now want to see a step change in the provision of information and advice through Housing Options approaches, or "housing health checks", building on the work already underway. Advice and support will be made available not only to those at risk of homelessness, but to people on housing lists and to long-term tenants who want to look at their options.

135 Through the five hubs, we will work with councils, housing associations, the private rented sector, the wider voluntary sector and advice agencies to ensure that people facing different housing needs are able to:

  • access information and expert advice;
  • discuss the different options available to them for housing; and
  • be fully informed of the widest range of choices before they face a housing crisis.

136 Households should be free to consider not just the tenures they are most aware of, but also opportunities that are available in other tenures. For example, some household needs are best met in the private rented sector rather than the social rented sector, particularly for those who live fairly mobile lives or need to be near specific education, employment or training opportunities. However, the decision to move out of social housing will not be imposed; our aim is to give people more choice.

Shelter Scotland welcomes the wider use of "housing options" approaches as a way of assessing an individual or family's needs and considering the range of housing options and tenures available to them.
Shelter Scotland

137 We are also supporting other initiatives by social landlords to improve choice and mobility for their tenants, or to free up social lets.

  • We will continue to invest in the Open Market Shared Equity scheme, which in future will be targeted at social tenants and also at other priority groups such as members of the armed forces and veterans.
  • Many landlords offer incentive schemes to encourage social tenants who no longer need a large home to move to a smaller one.
  • Others are working to make it easier for tenants to access mutual exchange schemes, to allow them to move within the social housing sector, within or beyond the local authority area. In future, the majority of social landlords should offer, or be part of, a house swap or exchange service.

138 On the other hand, we will not pursue the idea of a Scotland-wide common housing register. Responses to the consultation argued that there were easier ways to achieve flexibility and choice across local authority boundaries. Indeed, some of the Housing Options hubs are already looking to develop their own co-ordinated approaches, to better match people with houses, including across authority boundaries.

Supported Accommodation

139 Some of those at risk of homelessness, particularly young people but also women fleeing domestic violence and some armed forces veterans, may require supported accommodation to provide a range of services to improve health and wellbeing, including employment support. A consistent, national approach to the development of supported accommodation for those at risk of homelessness is long overdue and that is why we set up the Cross Sector Supported Accommodation Working Group, whose report is expected shortly.

140 The Group will make recommendations around provision of supported accommodation, funding models and developing approaches to employability, and we will urgently consider and act on their recommendations.

New opportunities for social landlords

141 As landlords for a wide range of tenants, housing associations and councils are the front line for affordable housing provision. We will give them more flexibility to deliver housing services in ways which best suit their communities.

142 Our vision is that housing associations across Scotland will have the option to provide a wider range of housing and related services for their communities, which could include provision of intermediate or private rented housing, or homes for sale. Several housing associations have already developed new approaches, for example by setting up subsidiaries to own or manage properties for shared equity, intermediate rent or private rent (see page 42). However, many have found the requirements bureaucratic and unwieldy. In summer 2011 we will consult on changing legislation to make it easier for social landlords to diversify their activities. 38 The Scottish Housing Regulator and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator will also issue joint guidance to make clear where restrictions apply to charitable housing associations, and where they do not.

Diversification - Dunedin Canmore Group, Edinburgh

Recognising the changing demands for affordable housing, the Dunedin Canmore Group undertook a customer profiling assessment, in order to tailor services to meet current customer needs. Reduced mortgage availability has increased the number of people looking for good quality rented housing, and there remains a continued demand for shared ownership and shared equity products.

To address this, the Group increased its investment in intermediate rented housing through its subsidiary. People who would have been first time buyers in the housing market have now been given the opportunity to rent.

The Group's approach has proven very popular, with 210 intermediate rent properties developed or under development. The new tenants have been able to rent a home from an established landlord at a competitive price in the market place. This creates more choice for people in housing need in Edinburgh and gives Dunedin Canmore Group a broader base and better mix of tenancies and owners in the community, while at the same time protecting the affordability of the social rented stock that they have.

143 While there was strong support during the Housing Discussion for retaining long-term secure tenancies, there was also recognition by many respondents that a wider range of tenancy options could facilitate choice and growth, particularly by removing the restrictions on social landlords providing properties for intermediate rent.

We would not be in favour of any initiative that reduces our tenancy rights and the tenancy rights of future tenants and feel strongly that the terms and conditions of the Scottish Secure Tenancy must apply to all social rented housing in the future.
West Dunbartonshire Tenants and Residents Organisation

The Scottish Government may wish to review the limited tenancy periods currently available under short assured tenancy provisions to encourage renters to pursue housing in the intermediate rental market, facilitate tenancy sustainment and promote security of tenure.
Scottish Federation of Housing Associations

144 Some respondents also highlighted particular parts of the current tenancy regime that could be interpreted as unfair, in particular the automatic succession rights that can see a home pass to a family member rather than to someone else in greater need. Others called for a new look at allocations rules to ensure that landlords are able to judge the match between an applicant and a community as well as a house.

We would propose that where the person who wishes to succeed to the tenancy is a family member or carer then the law should be changed to add a requirement that they have been resident at the property for a defined period.
South Lanarkshire Council

We would like to see the debate about housing needs going back to first principles, to: consider how housing allocations should work in different types of communities; and find better ways of balancing individual need and community need, particularly in areas that already have the highest levels of deprivation.
Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations /Employers in Voluntary Housing

145 Therefore, in summer 2011, we will also consult on other changes to legislation which would give local authorities and housing associations more flexibility:

  • by minimising the legislative constraints on landlords' allocations policies, giving them the responsibility to determine their own approach to meeting need, but retaining the requirement to provide settled accommodation for the unintentionally homeless;
  • to limit succession rights, for example where succession would result in a home being underoccupied;
  • to widen the tenancies available for intermediate rented housing; and
  • to widen the circumstances in which Short Scottish Secure Tenancies ( SSST) can be used, to cover for example:

i. applicants who are housed temporarily in overcrowded accommodation, while they await the availability of more suitable housing;

ii. tenants in properties with adaptations which they do not need, until someone with specific needs requires the property;

iii. tenants with a history of anti-social behaviour but not covered by the specific terms of the current legislation; and possibly also

iv. all new social housing tenancies, as an initial tenancy during which landlords and tenants can make sure that the housing is most suited to the tenant's needs and sustainable for the longer term.

146 In the meantime, alongside this document we will shortly publish an Allocations Guide for social landlords, making clear the flexibilities that they already have.

147 We will continue to work with social landlords and others to identify, share, and see how best to apply innovation and good practice in housing management, through our learning networks. 39

148 We will shortly be publishing a discussion document about the Scottish Social Housing Charter. The Charter will set the outcomes - or results - that landlords should be aiming to achieve for their tenants, for homeless people and for other customers. It will not specify the processes, actions or expenditure that landlords should use to achieve those outcomes; those will be business decisions for the landlords themselves in the light of local circumstances and customer priorities.

149 The Charter will help to focus landlords' activities on what is important to their customers and it will provide the framework within which the new independent Scottish Housing Regulator will assess and report on landlords' performance. The Regulator's report will enable tenants, other customers and landlords themselves, to identify where services could be improved. Subject to the approval of Parliament, the first Charter will come into force in April 2012. 40

Strengthening our communities

150 UK Government changes to the benefit system will impact on the incomes of large numbers of people. Housing Benefit levels will be affected from April 2011 and the consequences are particularly significant for younger single people and those who are long-term unemployed. The impact will be greatest for those communities where large numbers of people receive benefits. The choices for those individuals and their landlords will be reduced, and whole areas could become poorer and less economically and socially sustainable.

151 Energy prices have also risen sharply and that can leave some poorer households with stark choices around how warm to keep their home and how much of their income to spend on rent, food and energy.

152 Against this background, there is a challenge to reduce geographic inequalities and make all of Scotland's cities, towns, villages and neighbourhoods attractive places to live, work and invest in. Housing policies contribute directly to this goal, for example by promoting mixed-tenure developments to support sustainable mixed communities.

I am much more interested in building communities. I don't want to see areas with huge council / social housing and small private housing estates. I would rather have a good mixture… where communities are strengthened and enabled.
Marilyne Kubath, Housing Discussion Website

153 We are promoting strong, resilient and supportive communities where people take responsibility for their own actions and how they affect others. As a means to achieving this, in 2009 we joined with COSLA in publishing Promoting Positive Outcomes, 41 a new framework for addressing antisocial behaviour through more prevention, better partnership working, enhanced community engagement and improved communication. Housing associations, tenants groups and other community groups are now involved in implementing the framework, for example through the Participatory Budgeting Pilots in Fife (see page 46), South Lanarkshire, North Lanarkshire, Shetland and Stirling.

154 Support for our most deprived communities will continue through investing in regeneration, including supporting the vital community work of housing associations through Wider Role funding, which helps tackle poverty and disadvantage in our neighbourhoods. We are also supporting the role communities themselves play in regeneration through our community engagement, capacity building and asset-ownership policies.

155 Research shows that there are also complex links between housing and other areas of life. Poor quality and insecure housing tenure can result in very negative outcomes for household members, including children and young people, which makes it harder to ensure that they have the best start in life and are ready to succeed. The Early Years Framework, published jointly by Scottish Government and COSLA in December 2008, provides the strategic focus for policies to deliver that outcome. It recognises that children and their families do not live in isolation, but are members of communities. Creating strong and resilient communities that can provide young children and their parents with a supportive framework will include the provision of an adequate supply of quality housing.

156 It is also clear that delivering improved outcomes for our youngest children is not just about the provision of a warm and secure place to stay, important though that is. Housing officers and others who provide services for adults have a key role to play in breaking the cycles of poverty, inequality and poor outcomes, by recognising and promoting the needs of children too. There are a number of examples around Scotland of this close working between housing officials and other professionals. For example, the NHS Lothian Family Nurse Partnership test site in Edinburgh provides support to first time teenage mothers and their partners, from an early stage of the pregnancy. Part of this support is provided by housing officers, who are able to plan ahead for the housing needs of the family.

"Community Gains" - Fife

In autumn 2009 the Scottish Government and COSLA established a Participatory Budgeting Pilot exercise across five Community Planning Partnership areas as part of the community empowerment agenda.

In Fife, the aim of the Community Gains project is to encourage and empower the community of Glenrothes to identify and deliver priority services that will enhance the safety and wellbeing of individuals in the areas in which they live.

Community Gains involved local projects bidding for a share of £30,000. More than 100 people came together at an event in August 2010 to hear about, and then vote on, the range of projects that the twelve bidding groups had put together. Each of the groups had three minutes to present their project to the audience, followed by one minute "speed dating" slots to convince voters that their project deserved support. Voting resulted in financial backing for eight of the twelve projects, with the others receiving support to seek alternative funding.

The successful projects ranged from the provision of notice boards to building an off-road bicycle track; from a sensory garden to community well-being. The groups now have until April 2011 to initiate their projects, and will be supported in this by council officers and partner agencies.

Energy Efficiency

157 Climate Change is one of the most serious challenges we face, and housing must play its part in facing up to that challenge. The targets set out in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 require a 42% reduction in Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and housing is currently responsible for around a quarter of our emissions. In addition, our energy efficiency target requires a 12% reduction in our total final energy consumption by 2020. Our approach to improving energy efficiency standards for new housing was set out in Part 1. Improvements to the existing stock will also play a vital role in the achievement of housing's contribution to the overall target.

158 Guidance is being prepared jointly by the Scottish Government and COSLA to provide advice to local councils on how to address climate change in their Local Housing Strategies. This will help them meet the duties they have as public bodies under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 and will set out the financial and other resources available to assist them.

159 Our measures to address energy efficiency are also central to our commitment to ensure that by November 2016, so far as is reasonably practicable, nobody is living in fuel poverty in Scotland. In 2009, nearly a third of households were facing fuel poverty. 42 The three principal factors which contribute to this problem are fuel prices; incomes; and the energy efficiency of housing. The last of these is the factor the Scottish Government can influence most, and we are providing support to tackle fuel poverty through the energy assistance package and the home insulation scheme.

Improvements to existing housing

160 We will continue to invest in good levels of insulation and energy efficient heating systems. This will help people reduce fuel bills, help tackle climate change, and encourage economic growth through increased opportunities for the emerging green industries. We have made real progress already, with 55% of houses now rated as having a "good" energy efficiency standard and just 3% rated as "poor". 43

High quality insulation and effective, efficient heating systems will greatly assist in achieving quality homes. Creative design need not be expensive but needs to be visionary and at the same time practical.
East Kilbride and District Housing Association

161 Together with home owners and landlords, we will pursue the strategy and goals set out in our Energy Efficiency Action Plan 44 (October, 2010) and our Report on Proposals and Policies ( RPP) required by the Climate Change (Scotland) Act. The draft RPP 45 (November 2010) highlights a range of proposals and policies for reducing emissions from our homes and communities. These include: smart metering and better billing, the energy company obligations, fuel poverty and insulation programmes and changes to building standards, together with a range of supporting and enabling measures. Our Strategy for Sustainable Housing in Scotland will set out in more detail how we will take this forward. The RPP explains that a range of energy efficiency measures will need to be installed in many of Scotland's homes by 2020. Milestones include:

  • every home to have loft and cavity wall insulation, where this is cost-effective and technically feasible, plus draught-proofing measures such as pipe lagging;
  • every home heated with gas central heating to have a highly efficient boiler with appropriate controls; and
  • at least 100,000 homes to have adopted some form of individual or community renewable heat technology for space and/or water heating.

162 We will extend our area-based Home Insulation Scheme, offering energy advice and free or low-cost insulation measures, to a further 200,000 homes in 2011-12, in addition to the 500,000 houses already covered. And we will continue to work with private landlords to encourage them to take up the wide range of incentive schemes for energy efficiency measures. These include tax breaks under the Landlord's Energy Saving Allowance, interest-free business loans and a boiler scrappage scheme.

163 Our Energy Assistance Package ( EAP) focuses on energy efficiency improvements for the fuel poor. The EAP can provide energy efficiency advice: basic insulation measures that are wholly or partially funded by energy suppliers; more expensive measures such as replacement boilers and central heating systems; and advanced measures such as solid wall insulation and air source heat pumps for hard-to-treat homes. The EAP and area-based Home Insulation Scheme will continue in 2011/12 and will develop a more integrated approach to addressing energy efficiency and fuel poverty. 46

Getting our fair share from UK-wide schemes

164 Under the current devolution settlement, improving the quality of our homes also depends crucially on policy measures to be implemented in Westminster and delivered through the energy companies. These policies are subject to major change post-2012 and we must both influence and respond to these revised policies.

165 For example, the UK Government is supporting home energy efficiency improvements by developing a Green Deal Finance scheme. Although the details are not yet clear, our expectation is that under this scheme households will receive energy efficiency measures from participating providers and will pay back the costs over time through the savings they make on their energy bills. This presents substantial opportunities and challenges to our housing sector and major choices for individual tenants and homeowners.

166 We will work with energy companies and engage actively with the UK Government to influence the design of these schemes to ensure that Scotland, our economy and our social and affordable housing sectors, are able to benefit fully from these measures.

Community and small-scale renewables

167 Small-scale renewables and micro-generation have a part to play in reducing reliance on electricity generation from fossil fuels (see page 50). At the UK level, the framework for funding such installations began a new phase in April 2010 with the introduction of Feed-in Tariffs, whereby owners of micro-generation equipment receive payments for the energy they generate. It is vital that we take advantage of the business opportunities provided by this scheme, given the potential for the up-front costs to be recovered in relatively few years. The Renewable Heat Incentive ( RHI) will provide further opportunities when it is introduced by the UK Government later this year.

168 We are working with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations to scope out the potential for a programme of retrofitting or installing renewable energy products in their members' housing stock, generating future savings and income through the Feed-in Tariff scheme. We are also investigating the most efficient way of supporting this activity including attracting appropriate loan funding.

Regulatory powers

169 It is vital that we see improvements to energy efficiency in privately owned homes, and we will continue to support and encourage home owners and private landlords to take up energy efficiency measures, including through energy company obligations and tax breaks. Under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act the Scottish Ministers are also empowered to make regulations to require action by private owners, and we will set out our approach to this by the end of March 2011.

Requirements for social landlords

170 Achievement of the SHQS by 2015 will be an important first step in reducing emissions in the social housing sector, but we need to go further. We need social landlords to lead the way in energy efficiency, retrofitting of renewables, fitting efficient heating systems and accessing sources of funding.

Current SHQS is no longer fit for purpose and should be amended to reflect climate change legislation, and provide support for landlords not able to achieve the standard.
Glasgow City Council

171 Following consultation with social landlords and other stakeholders, we will introduce a further regulated standard to require better energy efficiency by 2020. We will work with landlords to define the new standard and how it will be monitored, and the degree of flexibility required for hard-to-treat properties. We will define the new standard and issue supporting guidance in 2012, to enable landlords to plan effectively for implementation by 2020. Financial sustainability will be a key consideration. To minimise the financial implications for landlords, we will help them to access existing and new funding from the Scottish Government, UK Government and energy companies. In addition, we are currently working with a number of local authorities to investigate the feasibility of large scale contracts for retrofitting solar photovoltaic panels in their social housing stock; and what role the JESSICA 47 investment model could play in helping to finance this activity.

Retrofitting - Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership ( DGHP)

DGHP is a housing association with 10,200 homes, approximately 20% of the housing stock in the region.

In 2010 DGHP installed 53m 2 of photovoltaic panels on the rear pitched roofs of eight pre-World War One houses at Municipal Terrace, Dumfries.

Income from the Feed-in Tariff will be used by the association for further investment in its housing stock. The photovoltaic panels will produce carbon free electricity.

The fitting of the panels is part of a wider refurbishment scheme that improves the house overall energy rating from F to an estimated A, with consequent reductions in lighting, heating & hot water costs for tenants and in excess of 80% savings of carbon dioxide emissions.

DGHP has successfully entered this project for a number of awards. The lessons learned from this project are informing the Scottish Government's work to support a wider programme of retrofit of renewables by housing associations.

172 Furthermore, we will continue to work with the sector to identify, share, and see how best to apply innovation and good practice in creating quality, energy efficient homes and sustainable, well designed places, through our learning networks. 48

Actions

We will publish a report on the Scottish Sustainable Communities Initiative highlighting good practice in the design and development of sustainable places.

We will develop a Strategy for Sustainable Housing in Scotland in 2012. This will bring together our policies - on climate change, energy efficiency, fuel poverty and planning and the built environment - that contribute to the development of sustainable housing and communities.

We will continue to invest in new social housing and to prioritise affordability.

We will consult on ways to remove the excessive features of the preserved right-to-buy.

We will shortly publish guidance to help landlords target their implementation of SHQS investment activity effectively, highlighting the opportunities for landlords to save up to £1 billion from their budgeted costs.

We will work with house-builders, lenders (including credit unions) and the UK Government to help identify effective new forms of mortgage product which can provide funds for responsible first time buyers without putting the banks at risk through sub-prime lending.

We will work with the Council of Mortgage Lenders and Homes for Scotland to explore the extent to which the Scottish Government can support the development of mortgage indemnity schemes, and to address the barriers to their wider use.

We will ensure that property owners are aware of their responsibilities for the quality of their properties, and that they receive appropriate support in fulfilling them.

We will work with the PRS Strategy Group to create a development strategy aimed at growing and improving the private rented sector.

We will create a more focused regulatory system for the private rented sector targeted at those areas and landlords who give tenants a poor deal and tarnish the image of the sector.

We will continue to demand that control over Housing Benefit policy in Scotland be transferred to the Scottish Parliament, enabling us to take a different and more progressive approach to meet the needs of our people.

We will consult on how housing support, required under our Housing (Scotland) Act 2010, can best be provided by councils and their partners.

Through the five hubs, we will work with councils, housing associations, the private rented sector, the wider voluntary sector and advice agencies to ensure that people facing different housing needs are able to access information and expert advice, discuss the different options available to them for housing; and be fully informed of the widest range of choices before they face a housing crisis.

We will continue to invest in the Open Market Shared Equity scheme, which in future will be targeted at social tenants and also at other priority groups such as members of the armed forces and veterans.

We will give housing associations and councils more flexibility to deliver housing services in ways which best suit their communities.

In summer 2011 we will consult on changing legislation to make it much easier for social landlords to diversify their activities. We will also consult on other changes to legislation which would give local authorities and housing associations more flexibility:

  • by minimising the legislative constraints on landlords' allocations policies, giving them the responsibility to determine their own approach to meeting need, but retaining the requirement to provide settled accommodation for the unintentionally homeless;
  • to limit succession rights, for example where succession would result in a home being underoccupied;
  • to widen the tenancies available for intermediate rented housing; and
  • to widen the circumstances in which Short Scottish Secure Tenancies ( SSST) can be used.

We will shortly publish a discussion document about the Scottish Social Housing Charter. The Charter will set the outcomes - or results - that landlords should be aiming to achieve for their tenants, for homeless people and for other customers.

Support for our most deprived communities will continue through investing in regeneration, including supporting the vital community work of housing associations through Wider Role funding.

We will continue to invest in good levels of insulation and energy efficient heating systems.

We will pursue the strategy and goals set out in our Energy Efficiency Action Plan and our Report on Proposals and Policies ( RPP).

The Energy Assistance Package and area based Home Insulation Scheme will continue in 2011/12 and will develop a more integrated approach to addressing energy efficiency and fuel poverty. The Home Insulation Scheme will offer energy advice and free or low cost insulation measures to a further 200,000 homes.

We will work with energy companies and engage actively with the UK Government to influence the design of UK-wide energy efficiency schemes, to ensure that Scotland, our economy and our social and affordable housing sectors, are able to benefit fully from these measures.

We are working with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations to scope out the potential for a programme of retrofitting or installing renewable energy products in their members' housing stock.

We will continue to support and encourage home owners and private landlords to take up energy efficiency measures, including through energy company obligations and tax breaks. Under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act, the Scottish Ministers are also empowered to make regulations to require action by private owners, and we will set out our approach to this by the end of March 2011.

Following consultation with social landlords and other stakeholders, we will introduce a further regulated standard to require better energy efficiency in the social housing sector by 2020. We will work with landlords to define the new standard and how it will be monitored, and the degree of flexibility required for hard-to-treat properties. We will define the new standard and issue supporting guidance in 2012.


Contact

Email: ceu@gov.scot – Central Enquiry Unit

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG